The point of making a trade is to improve your team, more often than not the pay off isn’t instant as it takes time to integrate a new player and for them to get comfortable with their new teammates. When the Black-and-Red made the trade to acquire Alverado Saborio, it was met by many as a typical “United” move in which they took on yet another older player. After just two games as a member of United, “Sabo” has shown that wasn’t the case.
Even at 33 years old, Sabo had an immediate impact as soon as he stepped on the field for D.C. Head coach Ben Olsen and several other members of the team all used the same phrase to describe their newest addition, “he’s a true nine.” That is the absolute truth, his addition has taken a lackluster attack to another level while skipping the steps in between. United is still taking the same amount of shots as they have all year, the difference is that they are finishing in the final third. That was their issue until the Saborio trade all season, they would sustain possession, get the ball in the final third and leave with nothing but a botched chance.
Early on this season, I wrote about their starting 11 being built for a true forward. Sabo is surrounded by playmakers everywhere around him, that has made that integration period almost invisible. It was expected that he’d have chemistry with his former teammate in Fabian Espindola, but his first goal for United came on a pass from Chris Korb. Taylor Kemp and his prized left foot have provided great service to teammates in the box this season, he’s even more dangerous with the addition of Sabo. With him and Fabi drawing so much attention, he and Korb now have more space when they push upfield to join the attack from their back positions. So instead of having to stay wide, they are able to come in a bit to provide service as well as put shots on target.
It kind of changes things for us now because they have to tuck in more, because we have two forwards they have to worry about. So it opens up a lot of space for Korb and I to get up on the outside and it seems to be working for the most part so, he helps us a lot, he brings a lot to the team. – Taylor Kemp
It’s not just the backs that have seen the change in the past two games, the wings have as well. Chris Rolfe was one of the most dangerous players on the team, Nick DeLeon had shown flashes of the chaos he could cause from the wing as well. Sabo’s addition has given both of them more room to work and that’s just scary for defenders.
That’s what I’ve noticed about the last two games, it’s Fabi and Sabo up top. They draw so much attention, the backs are really narrow. The last two games that’s how it’s been, there’s been so much space on the wings. When you give me that much space, going to be a long night for the defender. – Nick DeLeon
For example, Rolfe is now able to attack his man knowing there won’t be a defender stepping up immediately upon him winning the initial 1v1 battle. The reason being that opposing backs can’t afford to leave Sabo or Fabi, it puts them in a horrible position and gives D.C. the clear cut advantage in the final third. DeLeon has the requisite skill to win 1v1 as well, he has too much space to work now (at least in last 2 games). In both games with Sabo, he’s scored goals. Much of that having to do with him stepping his game up and part of it having to do with the extra space he’s been given. Against Real Salt Lake, Nick was able to crash the weak side of the defense and create all sorts of trouble with Korb. On his goal in that game, he took the ball from the wing to the center of the box before firing a great shot to beat the keeper. He only had to beat one man, as other defenders didn’t step up even when he was at the top of the box because they had to keep bodies on Sabo, Fabi, and Rolfe.
In their last two games, they’ve put 17 shots on target and walked away with nine goals. Their efficiency at finishing in the final third has been evident, they’ve been in first place much of the season without a strong attack. It’ll be interesting to see if this can continue, as there’s no reason why it can’t if everyone stays healthy.Olsen’s talked all season about “if they want to go anywhere” in reference to the postseason. This trade plays a huge role into “where they’ll go” when that time comes, but the focus is on the short term. D.C. United is not the same team after the trade, opposing teams now have a dangerous attack to prepare for rather than just focusing on cracking a tough defense. Alverado Saborio has been the missing piece this team so sorely needed.