Forward Alvaro Saborio suffered a sprained shoulder on the play that earned a game-winning penalty kick for Real Salt Lake in a crucial CONCACAF Champions League game on Tuesday night, and he could be out for a month.
Team officials said they expect Saborio to be out at least two weeks, which rules their leading scorer out of at least the next two Major League Soccer games at a time when RSL is fighting to avoid a wild-card playoff game and straining to score goals.
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RSL is tied with the Los Angeles Galaxy for third place in the MLS Western Conference standings, two points behind the Seattle Sounders with five games remaining, and needs to finish in the top three to avoid the new wild-card game that would seriously encumber its chances of reaching the MLS Cup championship game.
Saborio at least will miss RSL’s home game against Portland on Saturday, as well as its game at Chivas USA on Sept. 29 and possibly its game at the Los Angeles Galaxy on Oct. 6.
He already was expected to miss the Oct. 17 game at Seattle because of international duty with Costa Rica in a World Cup qualifier. He’s also suspended from the must-win Champions League game against CS Herediano on Oct. 23, because of yellow cards.
That means Saborio might play only one more game for RSL before the MLS playoffs — the regular-season finale against Vancouver at home on Oct. 27 — a frightening prospect for a team whose offense has all but vanished recently.
It has scored only three goals in its last six league games, and six in its last nine in all competitions. Saborio ranks second in the league with 14 goals this season, and has scored 10 of his team’s last 17 overall.
At least Saborio ensured RSL will get a chance to play its way into the Champions League knockout rounds. His takedown by Tauro FC goalkeeper Vladimir Villareal in the 93rd minute in Panama City earned a penalty kick that Saborio converted to keep RSL alivein the tournament.
Now, the team must beat Herediano at home next month to reach the knockout round. If Herediano beats Tauro at home next week, RSL will have to beat Herediano by at least two goals to advance. If Herediano draws or loses to Tauro, an RSL victory of any kind would suffice.
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