A few weeks ago, MLSsoccer.com sat down with Real Salt Lake GM Garth Lagerwey to get some insight into the acquisition of Costa Rican national team striker Alvaro Saborio. Lagerwey detailed the 18-month period in which they tracked Saborio, to the point where they ultimately landed the forward in Utah.
MLSsoccer.com: How did the acquisition of Saborio come about?
GL: We figured out in 2008 when we realized that we may or may not be able to re-sign Yura Movsisyan, that we are going to need a striker. Saborio, he’s a big name in CONCACAF. So we looked at Carlos Costly from Honduras, we looked at Saborio. This is not the kind of player that’s going to be a surprise. He’s staring you right in the face.
And he was playing for Sion in Switzerland, and he was scoring goals in Switzerland at the time, and he was worth millions of dollars. And then when he went on loan to Bristol, that money was a totally different universe than where we were playing.
In the January transfer window there were rumors that he was looking to make a move in Europe. That didn’t materialize. So at that point we get the email in early February saying: “Alright he may be interested, but, we’ve got this loan agreement and Sion owns the pass. And Saprissa owns part of the pass, and it’s going to be really complicated.”
The key moment in the whole thing seems to have been when [RSL coach Jason Kreis] went out to lunch with Alvaro on day two down there. And they sat down, and really had a good conversation. And Alvaro expressed that he was really interested in coming, and understood what we were looking for. We wanted a two-way forward, and not somebody who is just going to sit up in the box and finish. So coming out of that, Jason came back and we said: “OK, let’s try to make this work.” It took some doing, but we eventually got to a deal with Sion on financial terms, and with the player on financial terms.
MLSsoccer.com: How does this acquisition compare to your other striker hires?
GL: We signed Kenny Deuchar, we signed Luis Miguel Escalada. This is our third try at getting the big goal-scoring striker. I will tell you that with Alvaro, if for no other reason that we have learned from our mistakes, I’m pretty comfortable telling you that he’s the right fit. We’ll see. We’ve got two strikes against us in this category, but I am hopeful that we’ve learned each time as to the things that haven’t worked.
MLSsoccer.com: How does Saborio compare to Movsisyan, and how does he fit into the group?
GL: Alvaro is a player that wants to combine. He wants to use his teammates. He wants to be part of the group. And he’s a very good finisher. Alvaro’s last touch is much more consistent, but in terms of individually breaking players down, I don’t think that’s his style of play. [His RSL teammates] want the ball on the ground. They want to keep possession. They want to dominate the other team. They want to try to impose our will. If you have a forward like Saborio that fits in that group paired with a fast player like Fabian Espindola or Robbie Findley, I think you have a really good choice.
MLSsoccer.com: How would you measure Saborio’s chance to be successful with Real Salt Lake?
GL: We’re really excited to have him. I think he can make an impact with us. I will say this, with any new foreign player, there is always going to be an adjustment period, but Alvaro has more experience than the guys that we have signed in the past. So from that sense we are hopeful that it may go a bit quicker.
One thing that I think we’ve learned is that the off-the-field stuff is just as important as the on-the-field stuff. I’ll tell you I’m confident that Saborio is a very good soccer player. There’s very little doubt in my mind that he can play in our league and be very successful. However, in order to get the best out of him we need to make sure that he’s comfortable, and that the off-the-field things are right.
He’s a forward. He’s gone through a little bit of a rough patch. In order to score in this league you’ve got to be confident. There is absolutely no question that he can do it. His track record indicates that not only can he do it, but he’s done so for several years now, so it’s all about feel and comfort level. I think as our guys get to know him, and he gets to know them, he’ll just get better, and better.