Paulo Junior certainly is off to a good start in his bid to fill the boots of departed forward Robbie Findley.
The young Brazilian, whose loan to RSL was extended in the offseason with an option to buy out later, scored twice in a span of seven minutes in a 3-0 victory for his team in the first intrasquad scrimmage of the preseason. Midfielder Collen Warner scored the other goal in the 45-minute workout at the Grande Sports Complex in Casa Grande, Ariz.
All three goals came against starting keeper Nick Rimando, just back from national team camp and his fifth career cap against Chile last weekend. Paulo combined with midfielder Ned Grabavoy on both of his goals, while forward Fabian Espindola set up the one Warner scored.
Forward Alvaro Saborio sat out the scrimmage while still recovering from offseason knee surgery, and his rehab might not be progressing as quickly as the team had hoped.
General manager Garth Lagerwey said recently that RSL expected Saborio would return to training during the current camp and be fit to play against the Columbus Crew in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals that open the season on Feb. 22.
Saborio himself was less definitive, though, saying he did not know if he would be ready.
And a team press release today said Saborio and injured reserve defenders Chris Schuler and Rauwshan McKenzie "seem on track to return to limited training with their teammates" by Feb. 7, the start of the second camp in Arizona and barely two weeks before the Champions League game.
Schuler is still recovering from the broken foot that prematurely ended his season last year, while McKenzie suffered a sprained ankle earlier in the week.
Neither Schuler nor McKenzie played in the scrimmage, allowing RSL to rotate three trialists into the back line.
John Gilkerson, who played last season with the minor-league Carolina Railhawks, was one of them, along with Jaime Cunningham of Fort Lewis College in Colorado and Salt Lake City's Phanuel Kavita, a product of the RSL-Arizona Academy. Midfielder Jarad vanSchaik, the team's third-round pick in the recent MLS SuperDraft, also sat out the scrimmage with a sprained knee.
Midfielder Arturo Alvarez played at forward as coach Jason Kreis experiments to see how he fits there, and the team said he created some dangerous opportunities in the early minutes "be it on his own off the dribble or by linking up with teammates around the penalty area."
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