When you talk about the top offensive tandems in Major League Soccer, it’s hard to ignore Real Salt Lake’s duo of Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola.
Saborio is in his third season with RSL and the Costa Rican striker has enjoyed his finest year in MLS. His 17 goals put him third in the league and give him 40 over the last three years. The first designated player for RSL has also missed games this year to play with Costa Rica in 2014 World Cup qualifying matches.
Espindola, meanwhile, is in his sixth MLS season and built on his 10-goal season of 2011 with nine goals and a career-high seven assists this year. His goal against Seattle on May 12 was the only goal scored in the three regular season games played between the two teams.
In the first part of our “Know Your Enemy” series leading up to the Sounders FC’s playoff series against Real Salt Lake, RSL color commentator Brian Dunseth shares his thoughts on the forward combination of Saborio and Espindola. Dunseth is not only a commentator for Real Salt Lake broadcasts, he also contributes to NBC Sports Network, Fox Soccer and the Pac-12 Network.
Q: What has made the pairing of Saborio and Espindola so dangerous to opposing defenses, particularly in 2012?
Dunseth: “You’ve got the point-striker who’s very athletic and great in the air in Saborio who loves to combine and can hold the ball under pressure, then you’ve got Fabian who is an x-factor and you never know where he’s going to be.
One thing you know about Espindola and Saborio is when they are clicking, they are one of the most dangerous tandems in Major League Soccer.
With the tear that Sabo has been on this year, from a goal-scoring perspective, it’s been phenomenal to see how many times he’s been leaned upon and ultimately what their record is when he scores.
There was a little bit of a blip during the summer for Fabian. He kind of fell out of favor there for a little while, but worked his way back in and the thing about Fabi is that he’s kind of a hybrid forward. You see him pop up in wide positions quite a bit, particularly on the left side. He moves, he’s antagonistic at times and he’s just an absolute nightmare to play against.”
Q: What are they able to do when they are having success against Seattle and what has Seattle done to keep them to just one goal in their three meetings?
Dunseth: “When they’re successful, it’s just about a rhythm and a confidence. They are two players that feed off confidence and early touches. You know they’re going to get their touches, but can you keep them as far away from the 18-yard box as possible. Fabian likes to probe and find exactly where that weakness is across the backline and when he finds it, he just wants to hit it time and time again.
Jeff Parke and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado are both very capable of individually man-marking Sabo. It’s just a question of where Fabian pops up and if they can make sure that they can back press a little bit and take those simple passes away.”
Tomorrow, we look at the midfield for Real Salt Lake as we build toward the Western Conference semifinal series beginning on Friday at CenturyLink Field.