RSL should start Saborio in MLS Cup final

Jamie Squire

Sporting Kansas City have one of the strongest central pairings in MLS. Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin are two very strong players, particularly in a system where finesse is less of a concern than strength. In a one-off game, you'd fancy that to be a big talking point, and how we approach that with our forwards to be equally so.

Talk of the team being better off without Alvaro Saborio is, to my mind, just talk. We can look at statistics to help us make up our mind, but to rely solely on numbers -- especially when those numbers are limited in scope -- ignores the qualities the Costa Rican striker brings to the table, and it ignores the work he's done at Real Salt Lake.

This isn't to say that reasonable people can't disagree about this sort of thing. One can dispute the way we play with Saborio, and one can certainly argue that it's not the tactical approach best fitting our side. But to claim that we're a better side without Saborio requires a preponderance of evidence that simply looking at the statistics on hand -- interesting though they may be -- simply cannot prove or, indeed, disprove.

But if you need a statistic or two to sway you, let's just look at Saborio's goalscoring record this year: In his 16 matches played, Saborio scored a goal every 112 minutes. Of the top goalscorers in the league -- and Saborio is easily in the top ten here -- he is behind only Camilo at Vancouver in time per goal scored.

The point isn't to shower praise on Saborio, though. His injury problems have been stymieing, and it's to our benefit that Devon Sandoval and others have emerged as capable strikers in his stead. His propensity for departing on international duty immediately after recovering from injury has put us in difficult positions, and it's put his fitness at risk. Part of that is down to him, and part of that is down to timing. (Of course, who would blame him for playing for Costa Rica whenever possible? They're off to the World Cup next year. We don't begrudge Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando for that same fact.)

But the point is that while shallow statistics (as there are numerous confounding factors) are interesting and might even mean something, they don't erase the quality of Alvaro Saborio.

Tactically, Saborio brings something important to our approach. He gives us an out -- somebody who can sit around the midfield stripe and win balls in the air, keeping the opponent from repeatedly picking the ball up there and attacking from a very dangerous position. He provides an outlet in the middle to involve midfielders in play. Most importantly, he's a player one can always count on to remain calm in difficult situations, and to finish when the moment is upon him.

Let's leave the talk about ditching our tactical plan for next year: For now, let's push forward in the way we best know how. We have a cup final on our hands.

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