We’ve all known for quite some time that Alvaro Saborio’s time playing for D.C. United was up once the Montreal Impact completed their 90 minute ambush of the Black-and-Red a couple weeks ago. There have been persistent rumors that Sabo’s old club, Deportivo Saprissa, has been sniffing around with a free transfer in mind. Meanwhile, Steve Goff’s most recent piece for The Washington Post declared Saborio’s departure from DC a done deal.
Saborio himself had been mum, but yesterday he tweeted out a goodbye message:
Quiero anunciar que no seguiré formando parte del @dcunited, gracias a todos los aficionados de este club, bonitos dos años pase aquí!!!— Álvaro Saborío (@al_saborio) November 12, 2016
Roughly translated - bear with me here, folks, my Spanish is pretty poor - Saborio’s tweet says “I want to announce that I won’t continue as a part of D.C. United, thanks to the fans of the club, had two beautiful years here!!!”
It’s been no secret for some time that United simply needed a more mobile and consistent target man to start in the 4141 formation that appears to be the club’s future. While Saborio was the starter in United’s first game in the 4141 - a 2-0 win over New England on June 25th, in which Saborio had an assist in an all-around strong performance - it became clear that he was no longer quick enough to play up front by himself, and in truth Saborio struggled to impact games in which he started.
However, that’s not to say that Saborio was without value. In fact, his performance as a super-sub made him a sneakily valuable player for the Black-and-Red in both 2015 and 2016. Despite playing just 890 minutes spread over 19 total appearances (8 starts), Saborio managed to post 6 goals and 3 assists. In 1,669 total minutes played in MLS for United, Saborio scored 10 goals, including a stoppage-time winner in a downpour in 2015 that clinched DC a playoff spot.
As we hinted at the top, this is not a surprising move for the club or the player. However, it does leave United in need of a solid, reliable back-up for Patrick Mullins. Lamar Neagle can fill in - especially in terms of leading higher pressure - and Alhaji Kamara has shown us flashes, but neither is a true target man. Both Neagle and Kamara are more likely to look to run the channels, and in the 4141 United will be looking for someone to hold play up to find Luciano Acosta (we assume) as well as wingers Patrick Nyarko and Lloyd Sam.
So while it’s the right time for Saborio to make his move back to the land of La Pura Vida, this also leaves United with a problem that requires solving. There are some alluring forwards that will likely be available in this year’s draft, but former D.C. United under-23 player Jeremy Ebobisse seems like a sure bet to go to one of the expansion teams in the top two picks, while the University of Maryland’s Gordon Wild - assuming he gets a Generation Adidas offer - will probably be off the board when United is on the clock with the 12th overall pick.