NEW YORK – Fans have voted and their choice is clear. Real Salt Lake's Álvaro Saborío is their favorite Latin American player of the 2013 MLS season, and based on a flood of votes the Costa Rican international has been named FutbolMLS.com's 2013 Latino del Año.
The 2013 Latino del Año final set a new record for votes received in a single round. Costa Rica, Peru and Panama were the top three countries from which votes were received, accounting for 71 percent of the final ballot. Votes from the United States were fourth.
The Costa Rican striker garnered 36.4 percent of the vote during the final stage of the contest, surpassing some other fan favorites such as goalkeepers Raúl Fernández (25.5 percent) and Jaime Penedo (25.3 percent), as well as 2012 winner Boniek García (12.9 percent). This was the first year in which Latino del Año's final grouped four finalists instead of two.
After two intense weeks of voting, Saborío received tremendous support during each of the rounds. He led Group A with 46 percent of the votes, finishing ahead of Camilo (Vancouver Whitecaps), Gabriel Torres (Colorado Rapids) and Mauro Rosales (Seattle Sounders). In the round of 16, Saborío crushed Colombian American Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution) with 80 percent of the vote.
For the quarterfinal round, the RSL striker faced a tough challenge from the Portland Timbers' Argentinean maestro Diego Valeri, but fans supported Saborío player with 79.3 percent ballots cast. With that wide margin of victory, Sabo qualified for the final, where he faced a head-to-head battle with Fernández, eventually finishing ahead of the Peruvian goalkeeper (full results below).
Saborío was signed by Real Salt Lake at the beginning of the 2010 MLS season as the club's first-ever Designated Player, and with 12 goals that year he was named MLS' Newcomer of the Year. The striker was a key member in RSL's run for the CONCACAF Champions League in 2011. They finished the tournament as the runner-ups after losing to Monterrey in the two-legged final.
In four seasons with Real Salt Lake, Saborío has played a 120 matches in all competitions and scored 64 goals. He has also been an important member of the Costa Rica national team since debuting in 2002, participating in the 2004 Olympic Games; Copa América 2004; the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013; and the 2006 World Cup Germany.
Saborío was the leading scorer for his country with eight goals during the recently completed CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, which earned the team a berth at next summer's World Cup in Brazil.
2013 FutbolMLS.com's Latino del Año Final results
1. Álvaro Saborío (Real Salt Lake) – 36.4%
2. Raúl Fernández (FC Dallas) – 25.47%
3. Jaime Penedo (LA Galaxy) – 25.27%
4. Boniek García (Houston Dynamo) – 12.85%
FutbolMLS.com's Latino del Año winners
2013 - Álvaro Saborío (Real Salt Lake)
2012 - Oscar Boniek Garcia (Houston Dynamo)
2011 - Omar Bravo (Sporting Kansas City)
2010 - Fredy Montero (Seattle Sounders FC)