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Forward depth: Injuries, dips in form raise questions about strike force

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

As we move forward through this week placed smack-dab in the middle of the season (that is, between the 17th and 18th games), it's as useful a time as any to talk about our depth.

Yesterday, we looked at midfield depth, and we asked ourselves a few questions. Today, let's look at forward depth, and let's ask ourselves the same questions.

  • Is our forward line good enough to last out the season, even if we sustain a significant injury?
  • Can our forwards continue to improve as the season progresses?
  • What sort of options should we be looking at, if we're to look at any?

This is all tempered by the nearly-season-ending injury sustained by one Alvaro Saborio, whose importance to our tactical outlay knows no bounds. We'll include him in the depth charts below, but with a little bit of sadness to the whole affair. There are also some things we should talk about after we go through the list (notably one Sam Garza), so stick around.

Alvaro Saborio is easily the top man in our depth charts, but we won't get him back playing until September or October. That's a little stressful and upsetting, but it's nobody's fault, really. Unless it is, in which case, I guess there's still nothing to be done. Even if we'd placed him on the season-ending injury list, we wouldn't get any salary cap relief, so he will remain our top man for the foreseeable future.

Joao Plata is a clear second place, and maybe he's not too far off. Now, it's probably obvious that there are differing tactical roles in our forward line. Plata isn't going to play like Saborio. I mean, it would be fun if he tried, I suppose, but not really. He's great - Plata is a magnificent fit for our system - but a hold-up striker, he is not. It's interesting, though: Plata has been winning headers lately. Not huge, towering headers, but little flick-on headers that are remarkably dangerous.

Hold on, now - the race gets a bit tight from here.

Robbie Findley comes in around third, but the competition's tight here. It's tough to say, because he's been in and out of contention, owing to injury concerns. That's not helped us, but after his rise around the playoffs last season, he gets the benefit of the doubt here. We do need to wonder about his injury status.

Olmes Garcia also comes in around third place. He's struggling for goals, but he's making positive impacts. His run quality has improved, his movement is as good as ever, and he's doing the right things. He needs a bit more confidence in his finishing and ability to beat a player, but he'll get there. His immense skill set hasn't diminished. Interestingly, this was a player Jason Kreis was very keen on because it gave him a chance to develop a young striker. I don't know that it's made a difference in his play, but it's an interesting storyline to think about.

Devon Sandoval is around the same spot, and he's kind of an interesting case. He's being tasked with playing the Alvaro Saborio role with a fraction of the experience the Costa Rican has. He does bring his own qualities to it, but this role - alongside the defensive midfield spot - is probably the most difficult tactically to learn. All told, Sandoval is doing well here, but he could improve, too.

Benji Lopez is a clear fourth, and it's hard to see him finding minutes given his form for the reserves. He's young and full of potential, but one wonders when his time will come.

Now, we've also brought in Sam Garza on trial, and there's something interesting about that. Garza, former San Jose Earthquakes man and a first-round draft pick in 2012, can play at forward or apparently on the wing. Our forwards have struggled to score (outside of Joao Plata, whose seven goals scored is quite nice). Garza doesn't bring something different than that, but he could present a different type of option.

With a long-term injury to Saborio, injury concerns about Findley, and two forwards who aren't firing on all cylinders, maybe Garza presents something a bit different: A once-hotly tipped striker who has sometimes struggled for confidence and hasn't developed as many will have hoped.