LEHI, Utah – For Alvaro Saborio, Real Salt Lake's upcoming CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series is going to be an unusual one.
“It’s going to be a weird experience because they are my team, they are my friends,” Saborío said on Friday of RSL's opponents, Deportivo Saprissa. “I played five, six years there and I have a lot of memories from this club.”
Saborío had some of his best success as a professional playing for Saprissa, where he began his pro career. He scored 95 goals in 149 matches with the Costa Rican club between 2001 and '06, and his time there propelled him into the Costa Rican national team and launched him into a move to Europe when he landed with FC Sion on a loan arrangement.
Some of the highs Saborío experienced while at Saprissa came while chasing the very trophy RSL are aiming to win, as he helped lead the club to the CONCACAF Champions' Cup finals in 2004 and again in '05, when El Monstruo Morado won it all.
[inline_node:329831]The Costa Rican international knows a little bit about the players Real Salt Lake will be facing. In fact, prior to the 2010 campaign, Saborío trained with Saprissa prior to joining RSL in the preseason. However, he admits that he knows little about their current style of play.
“I don’t know much because they have a new coach from Mexico," Saborío said of new current Saprissa boss Juan Manuel Álvarez, "and I don’t know much about him.”
That said, Saborío is looking forward to the return leg at Saprissa Stadium on April 5, which will be a homecoming for the striker. He grew up in Ciudad Quesada, about an hour-and-a-half north of San José. He expects to have friends, family and former fans in his corner for that match.
However, he warns that playing there will not be easy. He’s seen the suffering and humiliation that other clubs have faced in the “Monster’s Cave,” and feels like RSL need to take the initiative in the first leg on March 15 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“We have to win here," said Saborío, "If we can win by two goals or three goals or more, it’s better.”
Either way, RSL head coach Jason Kreis thinks the matchup with Saborío's old club will bring out the best in his player.
“I think he’s going to be particularly motivated,” said Kreis. “I think the very first conversation that I had with him, he was intrigued by being in this tournament again, and I think intrigued a little bit by the possibility of playing against his old club.”