Sports teams often compare themselves to families, which most of the time is ridiculous on the surface because often those same teams change players without a second thought.
For Real Salt Lake, however, there is a closer atmosphere created by management, including coach Jason Kreis. That "family" setting may have aided mercurial — and private — forward Alvaro Saborio.
Certain, RSL is much more successful when the Costa Rican striker finds the back of the net, including Saturday's double during the 3-0 victory against the Seattle Sounders FC in the opening leg of the Western Conference semifinals.
"Sabo in particular, spent the first par of the season playing injured," Kreis said Tuesday prior to taking off for Seattle and Wednesday's second playoff leg (at 8 p.m. MT on ESPN2). "And not wanting to be completely honest about that injury situation, that caused him to be a little bit off and to be a little bit off as a forward means things probably aren't going to go your way.
"Coming from back Gold Cup where he had such disappointment for Costa Rica and was treated, I think, fairly cruelly and meanly by the Costa Rican people ... He came back to, I believe, a group that considers him part of our family. He has embraced that a little bit."
The first half of Saborio's 2011 season was difficult in many ways, including two missed penalty kicks for Costa Rica in the Gold Cup, a game where he was vilified. He also lost a teammate and friend in a fatal car accident.
Then there was a dive that cost a suspension and a temper tantrum that resulted in Kreis not taking Saborio to Dallas for a U.S. Open Cup match.
Since that time, however, has Saborio found a second breath and new understanding with Kreis and RSL.
"Both him and [forward Fabian Espindola] for last couple of games have been working very very hard," Kreis said. "We are such a better team when those guys show the level of commitment they have over the last couple of matches...to close things down and to chase lost causes and do all the dirty work that people probably don't often think about that forwards need to do."
Kreis compared Saborio to Espindola, in that it took a season or more to feel comfortable and trust with RSL. Saborio remains, however, a work in progress.
"He's not the most talkative of guys, he hasn't ever really expressed an increased comfort level with us," Kreis said. "It just takes a while for those guys to feel like they can really, really trust us and can really appreciate how much we care about them."
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