Partnering Saborio: Four archetypes for RSL's striker search

Victor Decolongon

Real Salt Lake currently holds one forward on the roster: Alvaro Saborio. With deep concentration and great focus, we should be able to bring in the right players to partner with him — but what might we be looking at?

With Real Salt Lake set to bring in two or three forwards (see: RSL looking for big-game goalscorers), the challenge will inevitably be on deciding what type of forwards to bring in.

It's hard to doubt the ability of the scouting team (er, Andy Williams) to find the proper players, and it's harder still to doubt the ability of Garth Lagerwey to bring them in on a reasonable contract. Those parts are the relatively easy part of the job. The bigger question, to my mind: What type of strikers would best fit into our system? Let's look at a few specific archetypes and make some judgment calls - ones we are perhaps unfit to make. Who'd have it any other way?

The speed demon

We've seen clamoring for the prototypical speedy strikers, and there's something to that. A speed demon to burst forward and create chances is an appealing piece in any system -- but the problem becomes finding that specific player. Few strikers come packaged with speed and technical prowess, and the ones that have both in spades end up being paid the relatively big bucks. Could we use a player like this? Certainly so, but finding one might be difficult in our price range.

Let us remember that Fabian Espindola wasn't exactly slow -- he had great bursts of pace, and his sprinting ability was top-notch. The problem was perhaps that he had a tendency to slow play when he reached the edge of the box, which may be down to a lack of "killer mentality" or some other trite aphorism.

Alvaro Saborio, likewise, isn't particularly slow, but he tends to use his pace more selectively. I've long held a belief that Saborio meters his physical output in a more measured fashion than nearly any player on our side, for better or worse. This lends itself to a longer season, but it can provide a few frustrating moments when a little urgency seems to be missing.

If I'm to guess, we will be looking hard for a player like this, perhaps at the $200,000 salary level. I won't pretend to be an expert on how we manage the ever-nebulous salary cap (there's only one person who can do that, and it's Lagerwey himself), but I do think we have room for two or three players at this level. Of course, that's all relatively dependent on whether Javier Morales remains at the club, and at what salary level he is at, as well.

These are the special players Lagerwey and crew are looking for, and if we can find one, I think we'll be in a fantastic little spot. There's always the risk that they won't work out well, but it's a risk we simply must take at this point.

Probability of signing: 0.8

The spry, technical striker

This is the dream, isn't it? Every side wants a spry, technical striker - somebody good with the ball at his feet, inventive, quick-moving, and constantly motivated. It's a tough proposition to find a player like this that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, but unlike the aforementioned speed demon, I'm inclined to think that it's actually possible to find these players at the price right for us.

Fabian Espindola, to some extent, filled this role during his time at the club: The man is quick on his feet, excellent with the ball, and is constantly looking to attack - but by the same measure, he's rather inclined to burst wide. It was partly a tactical ploy, his deployment wide, but partly because it's just his playing style. He's most effective cutting inside. Problematically, as Javier Morales shifted in style (an abrupt transition perhaps forced by injury), Espindola's width left Morales in a relative no-man's-land at times.

Bringing in somebody quick, nimble and technically astute should be - and undoubtedly is - at the top of our list. These players often end up with high salaries, and usually rightly so: Not only should they be scoring goals with some frequency and consistency, but technical ability has the tendency to wow fans - and with the loss of Fabian Espindola, one of our players most attractive on-the-ball (as per his ability and not necessarily his looks, mind - you can judge his attractiveness otherwise should you so desire), that might go some way to keeping fans engaged. Is that a high priority? I sure hope not, but it's an ancillary benefit.

Adding somebody to bear some of the goalscoring impetus would go some way toward helping our side transition into a new core. Developing a good understanding, too, with Alvaro Saborio is essential: They must also have a good eye for the pass. It's all rather an uphill battle finding a player like this, but I really do rate our staff to pull it off.

Probability of signing: 0.9

The target man-poacher hybrid

Imagine, if you will, a world in which we play a double-target system. Alvaro Saborio is fantastic in the air, and his hold-up play is essential to our approach play, but what if - what if! - we had two players who could do that effectively. Saborio and this unnamed, shadowy figure would exchange positions regularly, with one taking up the hold-up spot, the other further forward as a poacher.

Ah, the poacher-target man hybrid role. It's an odd combination, isn't it? Alvaro Saborio, the more I think about it, is a rare sort - but maybe that's more a tactical oddity than anything else. But having two of those on the pitch at the same time might be a bit limiting. It wouldn't be the most width-encouraging formation, and it might seem a bit easier at times to just, well, hoof the ball down-pitch. It would represent a distinct and definite shift from our strategic approach, and I'm not sure that's a great idea.

Still, having one of these to complement the strike force and serve as a Saborio backup when international call ups take their toll might be worthwhile, and for that reason, we might look specifically at someone like that.

Probability of signing: 0.4

The support striker

I've been mulling this one over in my head for the last few weeks, and it's got me in a bit of a quandary. If we retain Javier Morales - which I think we're likely to do - then I would not particularly count on our signing a classic number 10 support striker. That said, it wouldn't be without its advantages.

Of course, a support striker would play marginally further up the pitch than our playmaker quite naturally. This might give Javier Morales (or another playmaker) a bit more room to work his magic, with attention being divided between the different pieces in play. It might also allow the more attack-minded midfielders a chance to break out wide, but that's difficult to really say.

A support striker would indicate a tactical retooling is in mind, and while that would be no bad thing, I don't know if I see it while Javier Morales is at the club and playing regularly. Despite that, some newfound creativity up front would be welcomed, and if that's how it comes, I don't think anyone involved would complain.

Probability of signing: 0.3

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