We're all aware of the impact Alvaro Saborio had last season for RSL: a team leading 12 goals (plus 4 assists) in MLS play, 6 more in the Champions League, MLS Newcomer of the Year, etc. He fit in so well that he personally wanted the club to buy out his contract and they obliged, along with a healthy DP contract to go with it.
Cue the music, fire up the cigars, a few slaps on the back and everyone's happy, right? Well not to rain on the parade, but all the good vibes are making most of RSL nation overlook a glaring question that needs to be asked: can Sabo maintain this high level of productivity throughout this new season?
Here are a few things that are conspiring against him:
First, he went under the knife for knee surgery right after the final whistle last season and has spent the entire off-season rehabbing. In fact, he's just recently getting back to training and it's still unclear of his availability for the upcoming CL matches. Granted, this was a relatively minor injury, but one that caused an additional groin strain due to compensation, and it could be argued that it hampered his final few appearances.
Then there is the dreaded 'sophomore slump'. This is not just some voodoo jinx or something your pappy told you about around the campfire, there is some physical science to it - namely that once people see you coming you can't sneak up or take them by surprise anymore. We all saw this happen with Javi a few years back, as he struggled in his sophomore season with the club.
Here is my thinking:
What we saw out of Sabo last season was phenomenal. So much so that I think he exceeded everyone's expectations, including maybe his own. And what RSL has banked on is that not only will he reproduce those numbers but even improve upon them, if the price they were willing to pay is any indication.
As is the case in life, reality probably lies somewhere in the middle. I DO actually see Sabo starting much slower than people may expect as he works his way back into form and fitness. From all accounts he was able to put in a full 90 minute shift the other day, but is still a long way from being back to full strength. What I DON'T see is him getting bit by the sophomore slump. At 28 and with his experience, he's much too veteran of a player to let that affect him mentally and I think not only will defenses be adapting to him, but he'll be counter-adjusting to them. If anything, we may see his assist level rise and others increase their output as the attention he draws provides some new scoring opportunities for those around him on the pitch.
But let me know what you think. Are you still riding the high of Sabo's accomplishments, or are you like me and cautiously optimistic about him recovering his form after off-season surgery?