Alvaro Saborio is an oddly polarizing figure on D.C. United's roster, and I'm pretty sure it has as much to do with the circumstances of his acquisition and fans' worst fears of what he signals about Ben Olsen and Dave Kasper's plans as it does to do with his on-field contributions. Actually, polarizing isn't the right word; maligned might be more accurate after nearly two-thirds of B&RU readers voted in December to send the Costa Rican international packing.
So let's start with how Sabo found himself in black-and-red: a trade last July for a younger Tantalus in the form ofLuis Silva, who had led the team in scoring the year before. Silva was what many D.C. United fans wanted to see. He was young and creative, an ideal second forward able to create and finish chances with intelligent movement. Sabrio was viewed by some as a throwback, a target man who has to rely on his teammates to create chances for him to finish. Worst of all, he's 33 years old.
Trading a young guy who had already set the league on fire for a less dynamic player on the back end of his career struck many fans the wrong way, and understandably so. Mitigating the move were reports that Silva - who had spent much of the year to that point on the shelf due to various ailments - had no interest in remaining in MLS after the season. (Reports that would prove true when he signed with Tigres UANL in Liga MX this winter.) RSL also reportedly kept a chunk of Saborio's salary on their books, and the player appears to have accepted a smaller contract to stay on with United for this season.
On the field, Saborio was a mixed bag in 2015. He was often a drag in what little possession game United could muster, his touch and passing deserting him during build-up play, leading to turnovers, but he still managed to score 4 goals in 779 minutes, the highest goals-per-90 rate on the team. His goals came in big moments - the comeback win at RFK against NYCFC comes to mind - until they didn't, as he failed to find the net in almost 200 playoff minutes.
This preseason, he's played with the second unit, and that's where I'd expect to see him once the games start to count. Whether United are in search of a goal or protecting a lead, Sabo has shown the ability to come in for 20 minutes and get the job done, and with expected starters like Fabian Espindola and Chris Rolfe not getting any younger, there should be plenty of substitute's minutes to be had.
Assuming that is the former RSL man's role, where should we be setting our expectations? in 2015, only one United player found the net more than five times, and Saborio's four goals was good for fourth on the team. Should we expect him to keep his strike rate and score half a dozen or more goals this year? Should we adjust our expectations down as he ages another year? Should we expect another reinforcement to come in at forward and eat some of the minutes that would otherwise go to Sabo?
I could see any of those outcomes coming to be, so let us know in the comments which you think is the most likely.