Welcome to From The Upper Deck, my blog about RSL and soccer in general. I have a lot of passion for the beautiful game. I am just a fan that likes to sit in the upper deck and take it all in.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Saborio Conundrum- Could RSL be a better team without Sabo in the lineup?

Who is the best striker on RSL? That is a very easy question to answer. Without a doubt RSL's best striker is Alvaro Saborio. Not only is he RSL's best striker, he is one of the best strikers in the league. He is scoring goals left and right for the team this season. Of course Sabo is the best striker at RSL. The next question is a little harder to answer. Could RSL actually be a better team when Saborio is not playing?

What? Are you crazy? There is no way that RSL is better without Sabo. What are you smoking? Are you one of those "Trade Sabo" guys?

Just hold on a second and hear me out. First let me preface this by saying I am a big fan of Sabo. And in no way do I buy into the "Trade Sabo" argument. And to be honest, I am not even saying that RSL is better without Sabo. But looking at the stats raises some interesting questions. Lets look at both sides of things (the team with and without Saborio) and then see what conclusions can be found. 

Saborio has played 12 games so far for RSL and has scored 9 goals on the season. That comes out to a .82 goals per 90 minutes played. That is an amazing stat. That is the both the highest scoring rate in the league as well as a club record. He is leading the team in shots per 90 minutes and shots on goal per 90 minutes. He also has two assists on the year.

When Saborio plays, he is the focus of the offense. RSL has scored 15 goals while Sabo is on the field. With Sabo scoring 9 goals that means 60% of goals scored are his goals. After factoring in his two assists, Sabo was involved in 73% of the goals scored when he plays.

All of these numbers are really impressive. But there is another side of things that makes you wonder if Sabo is too much of the offense.

On the season Sabo has played 991 minutes. Like I mentioned above the team has scored 15 goals in that time. That comes out to a goal every 68.79 minutes. He has not played 1439 minutes on the season. In that time the team has scored 33 goals or a goal every 43.61 minutes. That is a pretty big difference. And by this point of the season there is a pretty good sample size to look at.

But, there are more stats that raise some questions. One of the highlights this season has been the increased goal scoring productivity from the midfield. RSL midfielders have scored 22 total goals on the season. But while Saborio has been on the field, the midfield has only scored 3 times. Here is another way to look at it: Midfielders are scoring at a rate of a goal every 75.73 minutes when Sabo is not playing. When he is playing that number drops to a goal every 330.33 minutes for the midfielders.

One final stat to consider. When Saborio plays, RSL has a record of 4-4-4. When he doesn't play, RSL's record is 9-4-2.

So what does it all mean? It is hard to tell for sure. My thinking is that when Saborio doesn't play everybody else thinks that they have to step up their game. The midfield pushes higher up into the attack and the team scores more. When he is playing, does the rest of the team feel that he will carry them through? I am not sure.

The feeling would have been justified last year. Sabo was the offense. He had 17 goals and 3 assists on the season. When he played, the team scored a goal every 61.26 minutes. When he didn't play that number dropped to 95.86 minutes. I think it is interesting to note that the team scoring rate while Sabo is on the field is only a little higher this season compared to last season.

But the makeup of the team is very different this season than last. The team doesn't need Sabo to carry them when he plays. Saborio is a lethal striker. But we have seen how potent the offense can be when the team is getting goals from the midfielders and the strikers. The question is: Can there be a blending of the two where Sabo is just as effective but we also continue to get production from other players on the field? RSL will be even more dangerous than they are right now if this can happen.

Back to my original question - is RSL a better team when Saborio is not playing? To be honest I am not sure. Even after seeing all the stats it still sounds crazy to me that the team might be better without him. But the stats are pretty convincing. I would love to hear any opinions on the subject.


  1. I think a wrench in this is that Sabo was playing tons of minutes at the beginning of the year when RSL was still working things out. When Sabo played recently (against RBNY, Colorado, Portland, and Houston), he scored 6 goals in three games. Just a thought.

  2. It's hard to say for sure. I agree with the previous comment that Sabo was around more often during the worst part of the year (might've been even worse had he been unavailable). Kreis' recent statement saying he'd never been in a position before now where he had 5 completely reliable strikers available to him is a testament to the entire group, Sabo included.

  3. I think the team seems to be playing better recently when Sabo isn't on the field but that it needs to learn to be a more effective team with him to make Rsl more dangerous with its options.

    I wonder if the possession style stat suffers some because other Rsl strikers may be better at keeping the ball at their feet but they don't have that killer goal scoring instinct Sabo has. This would explain why midfielders are not getting more into the attack when he's on the field. I think sometimes Sabo likes to stay up top longer compared to our younger forwards who may help out more with possession. Sabo is more the holding forward or breakaway to goal type so I think that explains the less possession as well.

    He's obviously still the best goal scorer but I think Rsl should be flexible and open minded when deciding who to use in the forward position and not necessarily use Sabo every minute of every game when he is healthy. Just my opinion.

  4. take out the pk's and do the math again. even worse stats