Saborío hopes for warm reception, though unlikely

Saprissa remind former club star that fans will hold a grudge

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Depending on who you speak to in
Costa Rica you get a different answer as to how one of the most gripping
storylines will unfold in Tuesday’s CONCACAF Champions League second leg
between Real Salt Lake and Deportivo Saprissa (10 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer).

How will the Saprissa faithful greet their club legend, Álvaro
who will be playing against his former team for the first time in Costa Rica?

“The fans are not going to forgive him for the goal he
scored against us [in Salt Lake City],” Saprissa goalkeeper Victor Bolivar
said. “The fans here hold a grudge and they’ll make themselves heard. Saborío
may feel at home but only because he played here before. My teammates will make
sure it feels nothing like that [home].”


The Costa Rican national team legend, who scored the first
goal in the new national stadium which opened last week, opened the scoring at
Rio Tinto Stadium in the first leg on March 15 and pumped his arms in
celebration. RSL enter the Ricardo Saprissa Stadium with a 2-0 aggregate goal
series lead.

In the same match, Saborío was the target of more than
a few cheap shots from his compatriots, including a forearm to the back of the head
by defender Gabriel Badilla. Thre was no mercy.

But even after scoring nearly 100 goals for Saprissa, the
local Costa Rican media contingent was absolute in its certainty that he would get
whistled off the pitch if he hit the back of the net again on Tuesday night.

“Saborío is a good player but that’s where it ends,” Bolivar continued.


His own RSL teammates weren’t sure what kind of reception
Saborio will receive.

“After he scored in the last game, it might be kind of
brutal,” RSL captain Kyle Beckerman said. “We’ll see. I think the fans might
give him a little leeway because he scores goals for Costa Rica. That might
help him out.”

“He’s a legend around here,” RSL midfielder Will Johnson
said. “Everywhere we go it’s ‘Saborío this, Saborío that.’ He should be well
received. I think he’s earned that down here.”

The 29-year-old forward, who won the CONCACAF Champions Cup
with Saprissa back in 2005 and led them to a FIFA Club World Cup, used a press
conference on Monday as yet another occasion over the last several weeks to
profess the love for a club that Real Salt Lake are on the verge of


“I love this team [Saprissa] and this team gave me a lot,”
he said. “I feel thankful for having been here [with Saprissa] for several
years and now it’s happened that I’m playing for Salt Lake and I have to do the
best I can here.”

Six years are difficult to erase. And RSL fans will find it
curious that Saprissa still holds a percentage of Saborío’s “player pass,” although RSL
bought out the majority in an offseason deal which will have him in
Claret-and-Cobalt through 2014.

But Beckerman did not hold it against his teammate that he
would continue to express love for a team that he last played for in 2006.

“I’ve never played with someone like Sabo who’s scored so
many goals for one particular team,” Beckerman said. “When you get so much
success and you hear the fans cheer for you so many times, you gotta have some
love for them. Hopefully he’ll score many more for us and he’ll say the same [thing]
for us.”

The match was 2,000 tickets short of a sell-out as of Monday
night according to Saprissa. The emotions will be flowing on Tuesday night,
especially with friends and family in attendance.

“I hope they receive me well,” Saborío said of the Saprissa fans. “It’s
going to be something unforgettable.”

RSL supporters will hope he’s right.