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Why Alvaro Saborio's Costa Rica call-up could help RSL in 2014 playoffs


In a move that for once since he joined is slightly surprising, Alvaro Saborio's been called into the Costa Rican national team camp, supposing his tweets are to be believed, and they almost certainly are.

Since returning from a long injury layoff sustained during preparations for the World Cup, Saborio scored a goal in his first 15 seconds of action and made a further two appearances.

He's looked a little rusty, and this is to be expected. To get a call-up now seems a little surprising, but it speaks to his influence within the Costa Rican camp.

He'll miss Real Salt Lake's Oct. 11 home meeting with San Jose, and he'd seem a stretch to make it for their away match against Portland Timbers on Oct. 17. Costa Rica plays against Oman on Oct. 10 and South Korea on Oct. 14, both of which seem to be in the home countries of Costa Rica's opponents. The wear and tear on Saborio's jet-lagged legs would seem to rule him out for RSL's later date.

But it's not all negative. Saborio looked a bit poor last weekend, caused in part by a lack of familiarity with the play of Sebastian Jaime, and in part because of a general lack of playing time in the last five months. Getting him minutes becomes a difficult affair in the MLS playoff run-up, because it's hard to justify giving the time to re-adjust his play.

It was inevitably going to happen — Saborio's hugely important and once we secure a playoff spot — preferably at least third place in the West — we could be a little more patient with him, but this provides a more smooth transition into regular minutes. It provides him a boost to his confidence, because he can see how important he is to his national team, even when he's struggled to shake the rust.

It's the sort of thing that could have long-term benefits for Saborio, knowing that he's still an important figure for a national team that exceeded expectations in the World Cup. That can't hurt him, and it won't hurt us. But we'll miss him for two matches, and that we will do so even with the rust that's marked his last match speaks volumes of his quality. After all, a rusty Saborio is about 5 billion times greater than no Saborio at all.