SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake had a problem: They were struggling to put the ball in the back of the net. After Álvaro Saborío fired home three goals in a 15-minute stretch against the Portland Timbers on Saturday, that particular problem is solved.
The Costa Rican broke through for RSL in the 60th minute to end a 251-minute scoreless run – their longest since May of 2009 – scoring a header that proved to be the winning goal in a game that ended a four-game winless stretch.
"I am very happy," Saborío said. "First, because we need the win, and second for my hat trick. … Three goals, I've only scored a few times in my career and I feel very happy."
The win relieves a lot of pressure RSL had felt after struggling to score. But head coach Jason Kreis felt perhaps Saborío's big night was just a bit of karma.
HIGHLIGHTS: RSL 3, POR 0
"I think this is the guy, for me, that has just had a lot of injustices lately," Kreis said. "The goals that have been called back against him that he's scored that we've reviewed again and say, 'Those are fair goals.' So, I'm really, really pleased that he scored three and perhaps we can all feel better about where he stands, and where we stand."
Saborío did well to tuck away his first goal on the hour mark, rising above Mamadou “Futty” Danso to meet a cross from Kyle Beckerman and flicking a perfectly placed header into the corner of the net.
Sabo’s second came just two minutes later, again on a header after Chris Wingert swung a cross into the area, before the Costa Rican hitman completed the hat trick with a 75th-minute penalty kick.
"The first one was really special, wasn't it?" Kreis said. "I mean, jeez, the way he got up and headed it across the goal, the whole face of the goal, and hits the post and goes in – really, really special."
Said the man of the hour: "The first one was like, 'Oh, finally.' We have been trying hard, and today, good soccer wins."
RSL held more than 63 percent of possession against Portland, and connected on 85 percent of their passes. Wingert’s cross to Saborío, though well-placed, was almost par for the course on a night when the Claret-and-Cobalt were at their best.
"The line was so high, that when you have the angle, as an outside guy, the goal is to get it in between the back line and the goal keeper to put him in a bad position," Wingert said of the second goal. “I saw that they were high, and I was trying to hit it hard enough where they couldn't cut it off on the near side and it would still get through. Fortunately, it did and Sabo was just feeling it tonight – another good finish."
The win, coupled with the San Jose Earthquakes' 0-0 tie at FC Dallas, means RSL trail the table leaders by one point and creates perfect timing for RSL to meet the Quakes next weekend in San Jose.
But the preparation for yet another one-vs.-two battle can wait. For now, RSL can enjoy the moment.
"Our forwards have like 16 goals, our starters, and that's pretty darn good," Wingert said. "When all things are clicking for us, they're scoring, and [Saborío] played great tonight. I'm psyched for him."