RSL: Grabavoy, Velasquez fighting for spot ahead of Sunday
Sandy • On one side is a veteran coming off the best year of his career. On the other, a youngster having found his groove at the most critical time of the season.
Flip the coin.
Heading into Sunday's second leg of the Western Conference final between Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers, it's unknown whether Ned Grabavoy or Sebastian Velasquez will be in the starting lineup in Jason Kreis' diamond midfield.
Grabavoy, fully fit after suffering a hamstring strain against the L.A. Galaxy in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinal on Nov. 3, led RSL in minutes played this season before picking up the untimely injury.
But that didn't stop him from cheering on Velasquez when he scored against L.A. in the second semifinal leg or helped RSL orchestrate a virtuoso offensive performance in its 4-2 win over the Timbers on Nov. 10.
"Without question, this is why you build teams with depth," Grabavoy said. "This is why you try and bring young players along. Realistically, I think if you look at it, maybe a good situation for Sebastian to go in there and win the L.A. game."
Velasquez says he had been waiting for that moment all season. When it finally came, he responded with confidence.
"It's good for both of us because it makes us train hard every day, and we know we're both fighting for the position," he said. "I've always believed in what I can do in the middle of the park. Whenever you get a chance, especially on this team, you've just got to make the best of it."
Saborio is league's Latino del AÃ±o
Alvaro Saborio was named Major League Soccer's Latino del AÃ±o of 2013 Monday, which is the league award given to the MLS' top Latino player. The RSL forward beat out Houston's Boniek Garcia, Dallas' Raul Fernandez and L.A.'s Jaime Penedo in the final fan vote to win the award.
Despite missing significant time in 2013 due to injury and Costa Rican national team call-ups, Saborio led RSL with 12 goals in just 16 regular-season matches.
While RSL is 90 minutes away from getting to the MLS Cup, they may have to advance without both Saborio and defender Chris Wingert. Saborio, who suffered a hip flexor strain in the second leg against L.A, remains doubtful for Sunday's second leg at Jeld-Wen Field. Wingert remains also in doubt after fracturing a rib and suffering a lung injury on a foul he committed against Portland's Diego Valeri in the 13th minute of RSL's 4-2 win.
RSL at Portland
P Sunday, 7 p.m.
TV • ESPN