This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Whether it was a wrong step or tackle or mishit or planting of the foot, the landscape of Real Salt Lake's road back toward two Cup finals changed Thursday morning in Costa Rica. However Alvaro Saborio came to break the fifth metatarsal on his right foot doesn't really matter much now all that matters is what follows.
It's a crushing blow to the 32-year-old striker, RSL's all-time goal scorer since joining the club in 2010. Being the focal point of a FIFA World Cup was everything. Now it's nothing. It's a foot fracture that will keep the RSL's star forward out anywhere from 3 to 4 months.
Being able to represent Los Ticos in their own "Group of Death" against Uruguay, England and Italy was a dazzling dream turned on its back when Saborio went down.
As did returning to RSL healthy and in form.
Saborio had six goals and two assists in 10 matches this season before departing to join Costa Rica's pre-World Cup camp as players vied for a spot on Jorge Luis Pinto's 23-man roster. With the World Cup gone, the focus shifts to this: How will RSL tread water without a guy whose scored 73 goals across all competitions in a little over four seasons along The Wasatch Front?
The start has been good, but points that may have been able to somewhat ease the pain of this monumental injury were lost throughout RSL's first 12 and still unbeaten matches of this campaign. At 32, with the wear-and-tear of constant and often times year-round play, can Saborio make it back for RSL's Sept. 6 match against FC Dallas at Rio Tinto Stadium? That's the three-month return.
That's the fingers-crossed approach.
If the injury takes longer, if it takes up to four months, RSL suddenly scans further and further down its 34-game schedule to see the first match of October, a showdown with Chivas USA at the StubHub Center on Oct. 5. That'd be 18 MLS matches between now and then. That's not even counting the progression of U.S. Open Cup.
These are scenarios being entertained possibly at too early of a time, sure, but the aftershocks of this injury will ripple throughout the RSL camp for quite some time. Likely without Saborio and captain Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando at least through early-to-mid July had all three representatives made the trek to Brazil, RSL already faced uncertainty leaning on younger, less-experienced players. With the emergence of Joao Plata, the goal-scoring rested largely on the dynamic new tandem formed by Saborio and Plata. In a combined 19 matches played, the pair notched 12 of RSL's 23 goals to date.
With Plata again dealing with a left hamstring strain, with Devon Sandoval fighting his way back from a knock against FC Dallas, with Olmes Garcia struggling to find the back of the net, with Robbie Findley getting his legs back under him in returning from major off-season knee surgery, will the RSL attack survive the brutal summer months without its best scorer?
Before Saborio's injury, I spoke with RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey on Tuesday and asked if it was time to perhaps start perusing the league for deals with depth possibly becoming a concern.
"I really don't see us going outside with a signing to address it," he said.
A broken fifth metatarsal may change things. Lagerwey has told me several times this year he believes RSL is the most-affected club in MLS due to this summer's World Cup. That statement couldn't be more true now, but the circumstances have been modified. After losing in both the Open Cup and MLS Cup finals in 2013, the resounding sentiment from the veteran core was it needed it wanted another year to give it a shot to earn some hardware. Championship-aspirations are altered in every league in every sport every year, and RSL is learning that the hard way.
It's unclear what the ramifications of Saborio's fracture will mean for RSL. At least not until sometime this summer. Maybe even fall.