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Should we worry about Saborio returning from international duty injured?

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Patrick McDermott

Does Alvaro Saborio actually come back from international duty injured? The answer isn't particularly clear-cut, but reaction to a suggestion that international duty will do him some good was swift and pointed.

The argument -- and it's far from just one person making it, and it's something you hear across the world when talking about international duty and the preponderance of meaningless friendlies -- is that Alvaro Saborio comes back from international duty injured more often than not. And while we cannot deny that he came back from his most recent international excursion injured, that was both not about a meaningless friendly, and was almost certainly an injury that could have occurred anywhere -- in a match, in training, walking his adorable dogs. (Hopefully it would not occur during the last one.)

But rather than accepting or rejecting the argument at face value, we can do something a bit more meaningful. This data's all out there for the taking.

MLS appearancesInternational appearances

We'll list every stretch of games in which he misses more than two at a time, going all the way back to 2010. We'll compare that with international matches taking place. We'll then annotate each set of dates with the number of matches missed.

In the case of major tournaments (including World Cup Qualifiers), an absence more than five days after the final will count as missing a match; anything less we'll count as necessary rest after a more intensive outlay. Missing only one match may constitute an injury but a very short-term one; it could also just constitute rest or missing a game to participate in national team duty.

2010-08-11 to 2010-08-14: Paraguay v. Costa Rica, 2010-08-11. Missed no additional matches.
2011-03-26 to 2011-04-09: Costa Rica v. China, 2011-03-26 and 2011-03-29. Missed one additional match.
2011-05-28 to 2011-06-22: 2011 Gold Cup (final Costa Rica match 2011-06-18). Missed no additional matches.
2012-09-06 to 2012-09-22: Costa Rica v. Mexico, 2012-09-07; Mexico v. Costa Rica, 2012-09-11. Missed one additional match (with a longish break.)
2013-03-23 to 2013-03-30: U.S. v. Costa Rica, 2013-03-22; Costa Rica v. Jamaica, 2013-03-26. No additional matches missed.
2013-04-27 to 2013-05-19: No international duty. Injury suffered in RSL shooting drills. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865579121/Real-Salt-Lake-notebook-Strikers-Robbie-Findley-and-Alvaro-Saborio-miss-LA-match-with-fluke.html?pg=all
2013-06-01 to 2013-06-08: Costa Rica v. Honduras, 2013-06-07. No additional matches missed.
2013-06-29 to 2013-07-20: 2013 Gold Cup (final Costa Rica match, 2013-07-21). No additional matches missed.
2013-08-21 to 2013-08-24: No international duty.
2013-09-13 to 2013-09-28: Costa Rica v. United States, 2013-09-06. Suffered left calf injury in Costa Rica training. Missed three matches. http://www.realsaltlake.com/news/2013/09/saborio-returns-rsl-after-leaving-costa-rica-camp-due-injury
2014-05-17 to 2014-08-30: 2014 World Cup. This one's obvious and sad.

As we see, he's come back significantly injured two or three times from international duty, and he's had many more call-ups. We keep worrying that he'll come back injured, and maybe that'll be the case -- but I think the two most recent call-ups he's had have during the MLS season have colored our responses to his call-up somewhat.