SANDY — Costa Rican forward Alvaro Saborio's second-minute goal during a World Cup qualifying game against the United States in June of 2009 had a big impact for many reasons.
Not only does the 28-year-old list that goal as the highlight of his playing career, but it also had an important impact on his future. That goal and that game is what eventually led him to a spot with Real Salt Lake.
"We've had a discovery on him for almost a year," said RSL coach Jason Kreis. "It was the game at Costa Rica when they played the U.S., that was the first time I had ever seen him. Garth (Lagerwey, RSL's general manager) and I happened to be watching it at different places and we called each other after the game and said, 'I think we need to get this guy on our discovery list.' Ever since then, we have been watching him."
A discovery claim is something Major League Soccer uses to distinguish which team gets to sign a player if they are interested in joining the league. In simplified terms, it is like saying, "Dibs" on a player.
At the time, Saborio was playing for Bristol City of the English League Championship (second division) on a loan from the club that actually owns his rights, FC Sion of the Swiss Super League. When Saborio decided he wanted to play for MLS, Real was more than happy to accommodate him and acquired him on loan from Sion.
It appears to be a mutual feeling.
"I feel very comfortable here," said Saborio. "Every player has tried to do their best to make me feel welcome, so I feel good.
"I've played the formation, the 4-4-2, the diamond before, so it hasn't been a problem for me," he added.
It is easy to understand why the team would want Saborio to feel comfortable. He has been a prolific goal scorer throughout his professional career. In 149 appearances over his first five playing years with Club Deportivo Saprissa in his native Costa Rica, he scored 95 goals. And with FC Scion, he scored 36 goals in 87 appearances from 2006 to 2009.
"Soccer players have some pressure, especially professionally, so you have to make it happen. I think this team picked me because of my goals," he said.
Of course, a forward is expected to produce goals, but there is more than just putting the ball in the net that makes a striker successful.
"He's got fantastic size. He's got such soft feet, a real ability to hold the ball up for our team," said Kreis. "He's a really good athlete. … He wins a lot of balls with his head, and he holds a lot of balls up for us with his chest, and he's got pace as well. I really think he's got the complete package."
Saborio got the start in Real's last game, a 2-1 loss at Houston. While he didn't find the back of the net, he also performed to expectations.
"I think he has shown some real bright moments, and I think he has also shown that, as we've already known — it takes time. It is a transition period for any player to come in," said Kreis. "I'm very pleased. He has some fantastic tools, some fantastic potential, and I really think he is going to be a big, big contributor for us this year. It may take a little longer than we'd all like, but I think it is coming."
Saborio agreed with his coach's assessment.
"I need more minutes, more games, more training," he said. "I am not all the way back to my game."
Saborio is working his way into form on the field, but he is also adjusting to life in Utah.
"I don't know too much about the city, so I am looking forward to getting to know it better," he said.
For RSL fans, the feeling is mutual.