Saborio head shot

Talking Álvaro Saborío’s new injury, alternatives, and Friday’s big game against Seattle

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Álvaro Saborío wasn’t with his national team when Costa Rica drew Tuesday in Jamaica. Instead, he was back with his club in Salt Lake, getting treatment on a left leg injury that not only kept him out of Tuesday’s practice but will sideline him for Friday’s big game in Seattle.

Real Salt Lake, first the Western Conference, have seen their lead in the Supporters’ Shield race reduced to two points by a surging Seattle, who’ve won seven of their last eight. But for Friday’s meeting at CenturyLink, they’ll be without their leading scorer, with sources confirming Saborío’s latest injury will sideline him for RSL’s showdown against the Sounders. The team’s hopeful their first choice number nine will return Sept. 21 against San Jose.

Saborío had been hampered by a right leg problem before leaving on international duty but returned to Real Salt Lake with a new ailment, the most recent in a series of fitness issues that have limited his availability. Combined with World Cup Qualifying  and the Gold Cup, injuries have held Saborío to 12 starts and 13 appearances, in which he’s scored once every 108 minutes.

With Olmes Garcia, Joao Plata, Robbie Findley, and Devon Sandoval, Jason Kreis doesn’t lack for options up top, and over a one-game span, Real Salt Lake’s drop off could be minimal. But with Saborío’s injury issues mounting, and new ailments continuing to pop up, it’s worth considering how RSL would fare long-term without the 31-year-old striker. What if Saborío’s injury problems can only be fully addressed with an offseason’s rest, meaning he’ll be either iffy or short of 100 percent throughout the rest of the season?

source: Getty Images
Real Salt Lake is MLS’s highest scoring team, possessing an attack that isn’t dependent on their leading scorer. Should Álvaro Saborío (left) become a long-term absence, Javier Morales (7 goals), Robbie Findley (6), Ned Grabavoy, Olmes Garcia, and Luis Gil (all with 5) should be able to pick up the slack for team that’s scored 52 times in 28 games.

RSL would still be a title-contender, if not the favorite to win it all, but Saborío’s absence would increase pressure on Kreis to make the right decisions with his striking corps. Garcia, Sandoval, Plata and Findley each have their uses, but the opposing team’s personnel becomes important when trying to choose among them. Whereas healthy Saborío makes the choice up top easy (with Plata having formed a partnership with the big Costa Rican), Kreis would instead have to assess whether Garcia should see more time or another player, one more adept for a 90-minute role, should get the call. Is that player the physical Sandoval or the quicker, more experienced Findley? And how based on the other team’s personnel, is Plata the right person to pair with them?

It might, however, help if RSL knew the extent to which they had to lean on them, something they’re unlikely to have certainty on anytime soon. There’s no point where you draw a line in the sand on somebody like Saborío. He’s their best scoring threat, one of the best in MLS, so if he’s healthy, of course you take him.

If, however, you have long-term doubts about his fitness, maybe you handle somebody like Garcia differently, looking at him as somebody to develop into a 90-minute player now as opposed to a super sub for 2013. Maybe you approach him the same way you did defender Carlos Salcedo, be willing to take some lumps, but know you could quickly have a regular player if you’re willing to ride it out.

Friday’s trip to Seattle will give Kreis a good idea of what a no-Sabo world would look like. The Sounders and LA are going to be RSL’s stiffest challenges come November, so going to CenturyLink to face a squad which has 21 points from eight games will be a good test. They’ll be without a number of regulars (returning U.S. internationals and a potentially injured Brad Evans), but similar obstacles haven’t prevented the Sounders from forging this run. If RSL is going to navigate the postseason and claim a second cup, this may be the type of challenge they’ll face along the way.

That’s the approaching reality of Saborío. Are they contenders with him? Of course. Are they contenders without him? Given how often he’s been gone, they’re going to have to find a way to be. At this point, Sabo’s health is no guarantee.

 

PREVIEW: Tottenham Hotspur’s “To Dare Is To Do”

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The latest Premier League Download makes its debut on Sunday, as we dive deep into Tottenham Hotspur.

With a brand new stadium under construction and a solid look at perennial top-end pushes, Spurs are among the more intriguing stories in the Premier League.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League Picks ]

Spurs host Stoke City on Sunday at 8:30 a.m. EDT on NBCSN, and “Tottenham Hotspur: To Dare Is To Do” debuts at 11 a.m. EDT, right after the match.

Ahead of Boro, Allardyce rips his Palace players

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Sam Allardyce, Manager of Crystal Palace looks on during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Sunderland at Selhurst Park on February 4, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
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Sam Allardyce continues to have a public go at his players.

The embattled Crystal Palace boss says his resume should have his Eagles players latching onto his directives. He’s previously said he “thought it would be easier“.

The Eagles, seemingly, aren’t. Palace has dropped in form since Allardyce took over for Alan Pardew, and sits 19th in the PL table.

[ MORE: Who is Man Utd opponent Rostov? ]

That’s only two points from safety, and Allardyce isn’t massaging his players to get them over the hump. From The Guardian:

“The advice I’ve given [players] over the years must have been pretty good because I’ve been managing at this level for such a long time now,” said Allardyce.

“My experience and my qualifications are far greater than theirs. They can talk about tactics and systems, that’s fine, but they’re players are they’re paid to play. I’m the manager, and the system and tactics are my expertise, not theirs. When I set those out, they have to put them into practice. Stay focused, stay within the game-plan.”

Allardyce has won less than 36 percent of his matches at every stop except West Ham since 2007, and he went 68W-46D-68L with the Irons. Palace has a massive match against visiting Middlesbrough this weekend, and this is one heck of a risky ploy to motivate his troops.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks – Week 26

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Premier League action is back after the FA Cup break, with plenty of big games on the way.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

[ VIDEO: Previews of every game

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Click play on the videos below to hear my score prediction and preview of each game.

[ STREAM: Premier League “Goal Rush”

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Leicester City 1-4 Liverpool – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Hull City 2-0 Burnley – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

West Brom 3-1 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Chelsea 3-1 Swansea City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Crystal Palace 1-1 Middlesbrough – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM]

Everton 1-1 Sunderland– (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Watford 1-2 West Ham – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Tottenham 2-2 Stoke City – (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Report: Sounders on verge of adding AC Milan’s Honda

MILAN, ITALY - JANUARY 21: Keisuke Honda of AC Milan attends prior the Serie A match between AC Milan and SSC Napoli at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on January 21, 2017 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)
Photo by Getty Images
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The Seattle Sounders may have a game-changing transfer on their hands (inasmuch as a game can be changed for a reigning MLS Cup winner).

AC Milan is reportedly willing to release Keisuke Honda from his contract, clearing the way for Seattle to add the 30-year-old attacker.

Honda has 36 goals in 82 caps for Japan, and has played just 15 minutes in Serie A since Oct. 25 despite his status as a regular call-up for country.

[ MOURINHO: Ranieri firing is absurd ]

This untenable situation would be a boon for Seattle, who would gain Honda despite recent gossip linking him to Watford, Southampton, Spurs, and others.

The idea of Honda on the pitch with Nicolas Lodeiro and Clint Dempsey could spell a major sophomore season for forward Jordan Morris.

If this Japanese import has even a modicum of the success as another Seattle team’s look to Asia — See: Suzuki, Ichiro — look out.