Real Salt Lake: Saborio, way ahead of schedule, close to return
Sandy • Alvaro Saborio weaved his way through a maze of training poles. When he emerged a defender was there waiting for him. He took a slight touch by the defender, creating just a sliver of space, before putting his right boot to the ball.
The shot zipped toward the far post, by the outstretched arms of the goalkeeper, slamming into the side net.
For the last six weeks, Saborio’s life as a professional soccer player has been drills. He’s walked, jogged and eventually sprinted around Real Salt Lake’s American First Field or inside the confines of Rio Tinto Stadium. He’s high-stepped over cones and wheeled his way around with a ball at at his feet.
Where Saborio is now is precisely where he wanted to be: Out of the dreaded walking boot that harbored his broken right foot for over two months after he suffered a fractured fifth metatarsal on May 29, an injury that dashed his World Cup dreams with Costa Rica.
Now, RSL’s all-time leading scorer is way ahead of schedule. The target date of return initially was late September or early October. At training on Wednesday, RSL coach Jeff Cassar said the 32-year-old striker is putting himself in consideration for a return to the active roster.
"That doesn’t mean you’re completely ready to play in a professional game," Cassar said, "it just means now you can really start the process from just being in technical [drills] to then in possession, to then being a neutral player. Now he’s a player that’s preparing for the game."
As Saborio pushed the envelope gradually each day throughout August, rehabbing relentlessly with RSL’s training staff, Cassar mentioned how times demanded pulling the reins back a bit to ensure another lower-leg injury didn’t occur. But Cassar spoke to RSL’s team doctor Wednesday and was informed that the foot fracture is essentially healed.
"He said he’s basically free to go," Cassar explained. "With that being said, you want to make sure that all the strength in the muscles are there, so you then don’t get further injuries … You don’t want to put him too much to where maybe he has a pulled hamstring or quadriceps or a setback."
With Saborio’s return date looming closer, coupled with the addition of new Designated Player Sebastian Jaime, the club’s forward corps — thinned with injuries since March — may soon be at full strength for the first time in 2014. Prior to the foot fracture, Saborio notched six goals and two assists in 10 matches before departing for Costa Rica’s World Cup prep camp, where the injury occurred.
While RSL remains cautious easing Saborio back into the mix, it’s clear that his being ahead of schedule is an obvious positive as the club tries to keep pace in the tense Western Conference race.
Saborio, per usual, declined comment, but RSL captain Kyle Beckerman said, "he’s getting excited because he’s seeing the end of this rehab part of the injury. And we’re excited to get him back, but we’ve got business to take care of before he gets back. We’ll keep trying to help him in practice. It looks good so far, he’s healthy and in the couple weeks, I’m sure it’ll ramp up and I’m sure he’ll be coming back to give us goals."
A target date for Saborio’s return hasn’t been set, just as the club refused to put a target date on the rehab process. But with RSL playing in away matches on turf in two of its next four outings, a logical return date could be Sept. 19 at home against Colorado.
Asked if Saborio is in consideration for Saturday’s match against FC Dallas, Cassar said, "He’s in consideration. Whether we make that decision or not is still to be determined, but we have to be smart."