SANDY, Utah — If opposing coaches want to provide Real Salt Lake striker Álvaro Saborío some extra incentive, RSL head coach Jeff Cassar has absolutely no objections.
Toronto FC manager Ryan Nelsen said in the days leading up to the club's road game vs. RSL that he would've liked to have seen Saborío get suspended for a tackle on LA Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza. The Costa Rican forward was not disciplined at all, however, and he responded to Nelsen by handing out his own form of punishment with two goals on Saturday.
“If they're saying it, I hope they keep saying more of it,” Cassar told reporters following his team's emphatic win over previously unbeaten Toronto FC.
Saborío's brace gave him three goals in two games this season, 71 in 119 games over four campaigns with Salt Lake, and 22 game winners. After drawing and converting a penalty kick in the first half, Saborío left no doubt about the match's result by finishing a beautiful pass from midfielder Javier Morales to make it 3-0 in the second half.
Saborío is never more dangerous than when he feels like he has something to prove. That much was evident vs. Toronto.
“Sabo is a competitor,” Cassar said. “He always wants to go out and prove people wrong and show people what his talents are and tonight we saw it.”
The veteran striker was the focus of controversy in the days leading up to the game. Nelsen publicly called for Saborío to be suspended for the game at Rio Tinto Stadium after a hard tackle on DeLaGarza in a match on March 22 — a call that fell on deaf ears as MLS Disciplinary Committee took no action, but may have accounted for extra effort on the forward's part.
“He was fantastic tonight,” Cassar said. “He was playing unbelievable defense and challenging for every ball in the air. And I thought that just brought him into the game.”
Not surprisingly, Casser called Saturday's win “our best overall performance. I thought offensively we were really great with the ball and had really good ideas. And I thought our defensive shape was fantastic.”
He also said Saborío's 11th-minute penalty kick was vital to RSL's commanding victory over a TFC side that was flying high after winning their two first matches of the year.
“It was something that … the coaches really stressed to the guys was TFC never had to come back," said Cassar. "They had the lead in all their games. So we really wanted to see what they would be like if they were under the gun.”
The RSL boss also had high praise for midfielder Luis Gil, who picked the perfect time to break into the scoring column on Saturday night. He's headed to US national team camp on Sunday along with RSL teammates Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando and late addition Tony Beltran (his inclusion has not yet been confirmed), and Gil's score came with US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann watching in the stands at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“I mean, I didn't think of it,” Gil said. “But it's good just to get a goal in general. It wasn't the prettiest goal, but you've got to shoot to score, so I'll take it.”