SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake striker Fabián Espíndola has been making a statement this season — a statement announcing he belongs on this year’s All-Star squad.
“Yeah, of course,” he replied when asked if he would want to be a part of the All-Star Game. “I’d love to be there. I want to be there. This is why I’m trying to be back as soon as possible.”
Although hamstring troubles have allowed him to play in only 11 of RSL’s 16 matches this season, the Argentine has still managed five goals, including his late equalizer on Monday to rescue a home point against the Revolution.
Espíndola has come on strong in the goal scoring department, having tallied four times in the last six matches after only finding the scoreboard once in his first five outings.
However, with Espíndola, goals don’t always tell the story. He punishes opponents with his energy and work rate, particularly on the left side, wearing down defenses and helping to open up space for teammates.
In the absence of friend and teammate Javier Morales — the Argentine playmaker has been out for two months with a broken ankle — Espíndola more than any other player has stepped up his game.
“[He has been] looking to take chances, wanted to be on the ball and make things happen," RSL head coach Kreis explained several weeks ago. "We need more players that want to do that right now.”
In part, it’s because Espíndola is a soccer junkie. When he isn’t playing, he’s often keeping up with what’s going on around the league.
“I always watch it when I can, and it’s on TV,” he said. “And I always watch the highlights.”
And so if he does get honored with selection to face Manchester United in the All-Star Game, scheduled for July 27 at Red Bull Arena, Espíndola already has some potential teammates picked out.
“[Thierry Henry]. Landon [Donovan]. I like a lot of players [in the league],” he said.
He has the support of veteran defender Nat Borchers — himself a probable All-Star selection — who included a few other RSL teammates into consideration.
“I think that Nick [Rimando], Kyle [Beckerman], [Espíndola], Will [Johnson], [Jámison] Olave — those guys deserve to be there,” Borchers said.
Beckerman is supportive of his teammates being in the game, and would like to get a chance to be there himself, but admits that the timing of the game this season has its drawbacks.
“It’s not like in the past where you’ve got an All-Star break,” Beckerman said. “This is just planted right in the middle of the season.”
And while Beckerman has some ambivalence about the honor, Kreis expressed his preference pretty directly about his players’ potential participation in the midseason spectacle.
“I think the honor is great, and I’d love those guys to get the bonus,” Kreis said, “but I’d love them not to go play another game in New York, and have to travel all the way across the country.”
The fan voting for the All-Star participants ends Tuesday at midnight with the Starting XI to be announced on Sunday.