Sandy • Just in case any Real Salt Lake fans might have forgotten about their team’s all-time leading scorer, Alvaro Saborio provided a refresher course last weekend.
In his first match with the club in nearly a month — and only his third appearance in RSL’s last 14 league games — Saborio capped a hat trick with a spectacular goal into the side netting that probably should have given Real a victory over the Red Bulls.
Alvaro Saborio stats
Year Games Goals Minutes
2013 9 7 745
2012 33 17 2,570
2011 26 14 2,184
2010 29 12 2,121
Total 97 50 7,620
Saborio’s missing matches
Date » Opponent, reason
March 23 » Dallas, international duty (World Cup qualifying)
March 30 » Seattle, injury (knee)
April 27 » Los Angeles, injury (quad)
May 4 » Vancouver, injury (quad)
May 8 » New England, injury (quad)
May 11 » Montreal, injury (quad)
May 19 » Chivas USA, injury (quad)
June 1 » San Jose, injury (quad)
June 8 » Los Angeles, international duty (World Cup qualifying)
June 29 » Toronto, international duty (Gold Cup)
July 3 » Philadelphia, international duty (Gold Cup)
July 13 » Dallas, international duty (Gold Cup)
July 20 » Kansas City, international duty (Gold Cup)
It was the kind of performance the Costa Rican forward has the rare ability to provide, but also the kind of performance that has been in short supply from him this year as he’s dealt with injuries and lengthy call-ups with his national team.
The long absences might have crippled RSL in years past, but the fact that they have not this year means the veteran will be facing stiff competition for minutes going forward.
"I think you need to be fair to the other forwards and say that while he was gone, we had a lot of players make massive contributions, play really, really well in his position," RSL coach Jason Kreis said. "To bring him back now, it just means more competition, more depth and more choices — more difficult choices — for the coach."
Saborio’s seven goals on the year are tied for seventh best in Major League Soccer this season. The 31-year-old is averaging 0.85 goals every 90 minutes, but that’s because he’s logged only 745 minutes over nine matches this year.
Saborio has missed six games due to international call-ups and seven because of injury. Saborio has scored four goals but made just three appearances between the April 27 defeat to Los Angeles and Saturday’s match at New York. RSL logged a record of 7-3-1 and scored 23 times in league play in the 11 games without him during that stretch.
But with Saborio’s return comes experience and leadership that a team in search of a Supporters’ Shield and the MLS Cup will need down the stretch.
"Sabo is obviously the guy, with Robbie [Findley], who has a little bit of history with us and has shown us what he’s capable of when all the chips are down and it matters most," Kreis said. "He’ll always get the benefit of the doubt for that. But we’ve also got guys that have done a lot for us already in a short span of time."
Saborio said Thursday he feels at full fitness and is prepared to battle for playing time.
"I been pretty happy [for the other forwards] because they’re very good players," he said. "You have to get confidence and keep trying to get minutes."
And Kreis said he is confident Saborio is up to that challenge.
"He knows about all the success we’ve had since he’s been gone," Kreis said. "It fazed him in such a way that he came back and scored three goals. So it must be good for him."
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