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Real Salt Lake hopes Alvaro Saborio's return will ignite offense

Published October 26, 2012 11:18 pm

MLS • Plenty on the line in Real's last regular-season game.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Sandy • Leading scorer Alvaro Saborio returns to the lineup Saturday night for Real Salt Lake's regular-season finale against Vancouver.

His reappearance couldn't come at a better time.

Saborio was sidelined for Tuesday's 0-0 Champions League draw against Herediano because of yellow card accumulation. His finishing ability was sorely missed.

RSL fired 18 shots at Herediano goalkeeper Leonel Moreira, including 12 in the first half, but failed to find the back of the net.

Since scoring six goals in back-to-back wins over the L.A. Galaxy and Chivas two weeks ago, Real Salt Lake has not scored in 242 minutes.

Hello, Saborio.

The veteran forward has 17 goals in 30 games this season. He scored both goals in RSL's 2-1 victory over the Whitecaps on July 27.

"We know he is an important player," coach Jason Kreis said. "He always seems to be able to make that crucial play in the penalty box to make the difference."

Real Salt Lake is locked into a playoff matchup against Seattle, but a victory over Vancouver could help RSL on three fronts:

No. 1 — Playoff seeding • With a win, Real Salt Lake has a chance to become the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Western Conference playoffs.

RSL and the Sounders have 56 points with one game remaining. Because Seattle will likely end up scoring more goals — the first tie-breaker — Real Salt Lake must get a better result this weekend to finish as the second seed. As such, RSL would start the two-game aggregate series on the road before finishing at home — a potential advantage.

No. 2 — MLS Cup possibilities • RSL can improve its chance of playing the MLS Cup final at Rio Tinto Stadium — should it get that far — with a victory over Vancouver.

The host role will be based on total points. If Real Salt Lake finishes with more points than the eventual Eastern Conference champion, it would play for the MLS Cup at home. The only team from the East that has already clinched a better record than RSL is Sporting Kansas City.

No. 3 — Champions League • Real Salt Lake will greatly improve its chance of receiving an invitation to participate in the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League by beating Vancouver.

Two of four American teams — Kansas City and San Jose — have clinched berths in the prestigious tournament. The other invitations will go to teams that reach the MLS Cup. If Kansas City and/or San Jose advance to the final, bids go to the teams finishing third and/or fourth in the overall standings — possible if RSL beats the Whitecaps.

Vancouver enters the match against Real Salt Lake with 42 points, good for fifth place in the Western Conference. During last year's inaugural season, the Whitecaps went 6-18-10, worth only 28 points.

"… We have done well over the course of the season," coach Martin Rennie told the Vancouver Sun. "We've made a first step as a club to do something significant."

No matter how Vancouver fares in Utah, it will meet the fourth-seeded L.A. Galaxy in the wild-card round of the conference playoffs next Thursday.

It's possible Rennie will rest some of his prime-time players against RSL, given the gigantic chore facing the Whitecaps.

All-time, Vancouver is 0-3 against the Galaxy in Los Angeles, where the Whitecaps have been outscored 8-0.

"A lot of times," Rennie said, "the team that fights and scrapes its way into the playoffs can be dangerous and hard to play against."

luhm@sltrib.com

Vancouver vs. Real Salt Lake

P At Rio Tinto Stadium (Sandy)

Kickoff • Saturday, 7 p.m.

TV • CW30

Radio • 700 AM, 1600 AM, 102.3 FM

Records • RSL 17-11-5, Vancouver 11-13-9

Season series • Tied 1-1

Last meeting • Vancouver 2, RSL 1 (Aug. 11)

About RSL • It is 3-0-1 in the last four Major League Soccer matches. It has outscored those opponents, 8-2. … D Jamison Olave (hamstring), MF Ned Grabavoy (quad), D Chris Schuler (quad) and MF Will Johnson (lower back) are questionable. … RSL is the second team in league history to accumulate at least 50 points in three straight seasons.

About the Whitecaps • They have qualified for the Western Conference playoffs as the No. 5 seed. They will play the L.A. Galaxy in the wild-card round, with the winner advancing to play top-seeded San Jose. … They are led by F Darren Mattocks (seven goals) and F Camilo Sanvezzo (five goals, seven assists).