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Without Sabo, what does RSL have left in attack?

With Alvaro Saborio struck by injury, Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis will be scratching his head: What's left in attack, and what are the options?


It's a pretty straightforward question. Alvaro Saborio will be out for a few weeks, RSL communications reports, and there's certainly cause for concern. That concern, though, is magnified: Robbie Findley's struggled with early fitness, and Olmes Garcia could be dealing with injury concerns as well.

But the question is bigger than this set of injuries, and it bears repeating: What's RSL got in attack without Alvaro Saborio? He'll undoubtedly be absent this summer with the Gold Cup and World Cup Qualifiers for Costa Rica, so injury aside, we'll be missing him enough that we should be ready to discuss it at the very least, even if an answer hasn't yet been satisfactory.

We've seen nearly every possible pairing without Saborio, so let's start there. Indeed, the only one we're missing is Robbie Findley alongside Olmes Garcia. We've also seen each other striker start alongside Alvaro Saborio.

Findley, Plata (March 23, FC Dallas 73 mins): Speed. That's the name of the game, isn't it? It didn't really pay off against FC Dallas, but an error-filled defensive effort hurt RSL, too.

Findley, Sandoval (March 23, FC Dallas, 17 mins; March 30, Seattle, 14 mins): This seems a fairly natural pairing, but it's not one we've seen a lot of. It's come really only in the end of two matches, and one was that dreadful loss in Dallas, the other, a nice little win in Salt Lake City. Findley and Sandoval actually started together against Seattle, and Findley scored very early on. We'd gladly take more of that — especially as both men were essential in that goal.

Plata, Garcia (April 27, LA Galaxy, 63 mins): This one seems like there's some potential here, but you wouldn't know it from the rather miserable match against LA Galaxy. Both men went wide regularly though, such is their wont. As a result, we lacked both a body to send balls to in the center, as well as a reliable option for midfielders to ping passes to. If we can get Garcia moving centrally when alongside Plata, we might have something good on our hands — and a whole lot of control of the ball.

Plata, Sandoval (March 30, Seattle, 76 mins): This wasn't a bad one, but it wasn't perfect. It was rather early in the season and both men were still learning the system — they still are — so it's hard to be too judgmental. This is an excellent reserves tandem, though, and maybe that's worth some consideration in the first team. Really, we might not have a choice but to see it again on Saturday.

Garcia, Sandoval (April 27, LA Galaxy, 28 mins): This was a rather exceptional circumstance with which to judge your forwards, but the strength of Sandoval and the raw talent of Garcia made for an exciting show, even if no goals were scored.

Let's now outline the advantages each man provides.

Garcia: This kid has gobs of talent and skill. He's hard to look past in that regard. None of the other strikers bring the physical power and footwork he presents. He's also hit the post or crossbar four times now. He's bound to score again.

Findley: Speed. Lots of it. Still, we've got to utilize that properly for it to matter. He's been a bit injury-hit, though, and that's concerning.

Plata: Acceleration. His top speed is nothing like Findley's, but he has the undoubtable ability to burst past his man at vital moments. That'll earn him goals one of these days, and he's looked really quite bright for us so far.

Sandoval: Power. He's not the perfect number 9 striker right now, but Sandoval brings his physical characteristics into every match he plays. He's also willing to fight for every ball, and that's got to delight many.

And one outside bet, David Viana, makes it into consideration: Nobody — probably — knows what Viana's best position in our system is, if he has one. He's not defensively consistent enough for the outside of the diamond, and he's got a real uphill battle if he wants to play at the top of the diamond. His best may be up front, where he has the liberty to roam as much as his Portuguese-French heart desires.

What's best for RSL? It's hard to say right now — but don't expect injuries to dictate who plays through the entire season. Let's hope not, at least.