MLS Features: RSL will go as far as Saborio takes them

Real Salt Lake's 4-0 thrashing of Chivas USA on Saturday night wasn't really that surprising.

After all, Chivas entered the contest on the bottom of the Western Conference and last registered a win on July 28, while RSL has already clinched a playoff spot and is battling to secure second place in the West.

But while the outcome of the game wasn't a shock, it was revealing.

Salt Lake is a team that has always relied on a stout defense, and this season is no exception as the club ranks third in MLS with 34 goals conceded in 31 games.

However, if head coach Jason Kreis and his team want to win a second MLS Cup in four years, the club will need the type of offensive display it got on Saturday.

For the first time all season Salt Lake scored four goals in a game, and it was no coincidence that striker Alvaro Saborio netted three of them.

Saborio returned to the lineup on Saturday after missing the club's last two games because of a sprained shoulder. If any rust had accumulated during that time, the Costa Rica international shook it off quickly.

By scoring two goals in the game's first 11 minutes, Saborio put his side in firm control. And he capped his impressive evening with a classy goal in the second half that saw him chip Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy from outside the penalty area.

"I think the first two goals I saw him (Saborio) score, they don't get much easier than that," Kreis said. "I think that he has to be very appreciative of the work that the players around him did to set those up, because those were both tap-ins. The third goal was certainly something special."

There is no doubt that Saborio had little to do in scoring the first two goals. Yet there is something to be said for the fact he was in the proper position to do so.

Saborio's 17 goals this season lead the team, with the next closest player being Fabian Espindola, who has tallied seven goals this term.

The 30-year-old Saborio has endured a few dry spells this season, but when he is on, Salt Lake is tough to beat.

In the 10 games in which Saborio has scored this year, RSL is 8-2-0, while the club clearly struggles when he is not in top form, going 8-9-4 when he fails to find the net.

Certainly creative players like Espindola and Javier Morales have a big part in Saborio's success. But he is the only player on the roster with the kind of predatory instinct needed to capitalize on the good build-up play generated by the rest of the squad.

"I just feel like we have a lot of our players rounding into form, playing confidently," Kreis said after Saturday's win, "and now the performance of the entire group tonight should put us in a good place."

The final three games of the regular season will let Kreis know how good of a place his team is in as the side will face road games against Los Angeles and San Jose - two of the best teams in the league - before closing out the season against another potential playoff participant in Vancouver.

A strong finish to the season would be nice, but no matter the outcome of those final three contests, RSL will be in the playoffs for the fifth successive year.

How far the club goes once it gets there will depend heavily on the success of Saborio.