SANDY — Within a few days of Real Salt Lake's ouster from the 2010 MLS Playoffs, Alvaro Saborio went under the knife for knee surgery.
Three months later, RSL's leading goal scorer from a year ago is nearing full strength.
General manager Garth Lagerwey is cautiously optimistic the striker will be 90-minute fit by Feb. 15, when the team faces Chivas USA in split-squad scrimmages in Phoenix. If everything goes according to plan, he'd be healthy for RSL's CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal in Columbus on Feb. 22.
"Hopefully in this next week, we progress more and see where he's at," said Lagerwey.
RSL recently wrapped up 10 days of training camp in Casa Grande, Ariz. The players returned to Utah on Tuesday, but after a few days off they'll jump back into their abbreviated training camp with a practice at the Spence-Eccles Fieldhouse today.
It will be club's lone training session in Utah before heading back to Arizona on Sunday for more warm weather training.
Lagerwey has been very pleased with RSL's progress with its first meaningful game just a few weeks away.
"It was good, our guys came back fitter than they'd been in the past. I think everyone appreciated that we have a very small window to prepare for our Feb. 22 game," said Lagerwey. "It's a very different mentality to have effectively a playoff game four weeks after you start as opposed to preseason warm-up type matches."
RSL wrapped up its stint in Arizona in disappointing fashion on Tuesday with a 2-1 loss to the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps.
It was an eye-opening loss, one Lagerwey believes can help the team against Columbus in the CCL.
"We've got to be more ready to play in those type of games. Vancouver's a big, physical team, lot of speed, maybe not a lot of technical ability," said Lagerwey.
"The Vancouver game may have been excellent preparation because we're going to see a similar team to that when we play Columbus, and we're going to have to adopt a mentality of playing through some of those challenges and making sure we play our game."
If Saborio isn't match fit by Feb. 22, Lagerwey is more than confident in the team's other striker options, particularly Fabian Espindola.
"Fabian might've had the best camp of everyone we have. He didn't have a great last day, but was very, very good other than that," said Lagerwey. "We feel like we've built it the right way, if Sabo can't go, we have other guys who can."
Newcomer Arturo Alvarez is another player who can make a difference. Picked up from Portland via San Jose in the expansion draft, Alvarez has made a fantastic first impression on Real Salt Lake's coaching staff.
"He had a very good week of practice overall. Most important for him, or any other player, is attitude, and he's been awesome. He's been as good as any player I remember us signing," said Lagerwey.
Alvarez made it clear to the coaching staff he'll gladly play up top or in the midfield. He just wants to contribute in whatever way he can.