MLS • With lead scorer injured, Real struggling to create offense.
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Sandy • When Real Salt Lake has needed goals, Alvaro Saborio has been there to put the ball in the back of the net.
Last season, the Costa Rican was the third-best goal scorer in all of Major League Soccer. This season, he has scored three of RSL's seven goals and assisted on another. His goals have secured a precious road victory and saved a point at home against rival Colorado.
Salt Lake has been shut out four times on the year, two of those coming with Saborio out of the lineup.
So with the striker expected to miss several weeks with a quad injury, an RSL team that has struggled to find goals is once again looking for someone else to step up.
"Obviously there's more asked of everybody when you're missing key guys, and a guy like Sabo is a pure goal scorer," said midfielder Ned Grabavoy. "But in saying that, everyone collectively as a group, we just haven't put chances away."
The onus starts with the team's other forwards, a collection of four players brought in this season to help lighten Saborio's load.
"We've got guys we think can get the job done for us," said general manager Garth Lagerwey, "and whoever wants it the most is going to play."
After a 2-0 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy last week, RSL coach Jason Kreis lamented the loss of the team's target man, a player who could hold the ball as the team sets up its attack, but praised the offensive efforts of young forwards Olmes Garcia and Joao Plata.
Garcia, in particular, has created scoring chances. Since scoring his first goal of the season at Vancouver, the Colombian has hit the crossbar three times bringing his total on the year to four.
"A little bit unlucky," Kreis said, "but you have to figure that it will come for him."
Garcia has practiced this week, but is listed as questionable for Saturday's game as he deals with a groin injury. Veteran forward Robbie Findley, who has been dealing with injuries ever since scoring his first goal of the season, is also listed as questionable.
If those two cannot play, RSL would likely look to Plata and rookie Devon Sandoval.
Regardless of who plays Saturday, the scoring burden must be shared, Lagerwey said.
"Seven goals in nine games isn't good enough," he said. "We need to score more goals, there's no dancing around that. That's not just on our forwards, but on our midfielders too. ... It's a team effort. We need our defenders to bang one in on set pieces, and that hasn't happened yet."
In all, Real has taken 99 shots, putting 45 of them on goal this season.
Grabavoy said RSL has made a concerted effort to get midfielders more involved in the attack this year, but players have failed to capitalize on opportunities, especially during big moments in games.
"We're creating a lot of chances," he said. "I think a lot of them are pretty clear chances. If you look at the last couple games, I don't know how many posts we've hit, how many somewhat one-on-ones or clear looks on the goal that we just haven't put away. We're creating enough chances but without question we have to finish."
Vancouver at RSL
P Saturday, 7 p.m.
TV • CW30