RSL veterans Morales, Saborio edging closer to a start

After coming off bench in first three games, attacking duo could be in first XI at Portland

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SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake are aiming to get their big guns back into the starting lineup this week.

With three games in an eight-day span, veteran attackers Javier Morales and Álvaro Saborío are sure to get a start sometime in during the team's busy upcoming span.

Saborío (knee) and Morales (ankle) both had follow-up surgeries in the offseason to clear up lingering issues from injuries incurred in the last 18 months. The two players have come off the bench in tandem over the first three matches of the season, and head coach Jason Kreis has taken a methodical approach to nursing both players back to full fitness.

“I think it develops over continuing to train hard,” Kreis said after training on Tuesday. “Today was a hard session – almost 90 minutes. It comes with them progressing along the scale of how many minutes they are playing in first-team action, reserve team matches. And then at the end of it all it requires a little bit of a leap of faith.”

Kreis, however, wasn’t ready to commit to whether or not he’s ready to take that leap of faith and name the duo in the starting lineup at Portland on Saturday night (8 pm MT, watch LIVE online & on ABC4). But after the surprise loss to Chivas USA last weekend, the RSL coach had admitted that he was close to giving his two stars the nod.

“Close, but I wanted to be fair,” Kreis said of his roster decision for that match. “Fair in my mind is rewarding players that are on the pitch for the majority of the time and are part of wins. So I thought it was very fair to stick with the lineup that has played the last two weeks.”

Of course, Kreis is alluding primarily to Paulo Jr. and Sebastian Velasquez, who have filled in admirably for Morales and Saborío after RSL completed back-to-back wins against LA and New York to start the season.

“I hope that they appreciate that working hard every day in the training sessions and performing well on the weekends gets you another opportunity the next week regardless of who is healthy,” Kreis added.

Fitness will also dictate the status of Nat Borchers and Will Johnson. Borchers has seen time in reserve team action in the previous two weeks, and Johnson saw his first action in a Reserve League game on Tuesday where he played 73 minutes in a 1-0 loss at Chicago. There is a good chance that both players also see their first action with the first team during this congested stretch over the next 10 days.