Goal Breakdown: Did Beckerman mean to pass to Joao Plata?

Andrew Fielding-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake managed to put the ball in the back of the net twice when they played the LA Galaxy to open the MLS season, one which was called back and the other which carried the tag controversial. Omar Gonzalez thought Beckerman was actually playing the ball to Saborio.

Real Salt Lake managed to put the ball in the back of the net twice when they played the LA Galaxy to open the MLS season, one which was called back and the other which carried the tag controversial. Reverse angles show that Kyle Beckerman's pass was not touched as it rolled toward Joao Plata, which makes the goal seem like a simple case of an offside trap beaten. What if Beckerman wasn't trying to play the ball through to Plata?

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Here's how Omar Gonzalez saw the goal:

"I was pretty close, I think it was a mispass from Kyle [Beckerman], I think he was trying to put it into [Alvaro] Saborio's feet, the ball kind of moved funny and it kind of knuckled away and I just couldn't get my foot on it and then [Joao] Plata was at the right place at the right time, or maybe it was a good run, I haven't taken a look at it, but it was a good goal."

It appears in the gif, Beckerman is playing Cole Grossman's skipping pass. Gonzalez is marking Saborio, who is coming in to play the ball. Despite some claims on controversy, Saborio never actually gets that close to the ball. However it's clear that Omar wants to desperately get to that ball; just inches from getting a foot on it.

Plata comes in at the end of the clip, and he has time to let the ball come to him. Beckerman's pass has lost some steam, but Penedo hasn't come out to meet the ball giving Plata time to settle and pick his shot. A.J. DeLaGarza was playing the offside trap, but he's a hair slow ultimately keeping Plata onside. DeLaGarza is frozen seeing what's going on, and his marker has all the time in the world to square himself and take the shot.

As I'm still a student of soccer tactics, I couldn't reach a conclusion on who Beckerman was intending to pass to. I reached out and got an answer that made sense to me.

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Watching from the sideline angle it felt like a designed play by RSL, but I didn't know what you would call it. In this case Saborio isn't trying to actively go for the ball, he's dummying Gonzalez who apparently fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Plata's run is designed to beat the offside trap ending up all alone as the defenders not named DeLaGarza have no idea who is behind them. It's a play when done well will usually elicit the phrase "How is he not offside?" as in this example featuring Jack McInerney.

Even if Gonzalez is right and the goal was a happy accident, it was the result of the Galaxy allowing Real Salt Lake to do whatever they wanted to with the ball for a minute going back to a Nick Rimando free kick. The Omar Gonzalez foul that gave Rimando that free kick, and the subsequent foul by James Riley that gave RSL the second free kick are the only events recorded by LA players.

Both teams showed signs of fatigue, but RSL were able to fight through it and get the go ahead goal which sealed the match for Salt Lake. In a match that was much tighter than a typical opening weekend match, composure through fatigue ultimately was the difference.

Judge for yourself, the video is embedded below:

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