Sizing up the Silva for Saborio swap / by Jason Poon

By Jason Poon (@jasonhpoon)

Last week, the Alvaro Saborio for Luis Silva trade kind of took the league by surprise. Nobody saw this coming, but after the dust settled this trade makes perfect sense for both parties involved. For DC, they give up a promising youngster for a proven goal scorer they badly need. For Real Salt Lake, they pick up an up and coming midfielder who can help rebuild an aging RSL side.

But for United, this is a move to win now and to take advantage of their favorable table positioning to make a serious run for the Supporter's Shield in a weaker Eastern Conference and a possible deep run for the MLS Cup too. It's a "win now or never" kind of mentality and it's one that will most likely pay off.

Saborio is a proven goal scorer in this league. His MLS career is decorated by his 63 goals in only 127 matches. Another way to look at it is that he averages 0.57 goals per 90 minutes, an impressive rate of return which is even more impressive when you consider that he's not a volume shooter. Saborio, for his MLS career, only takes 2.62 shots per game (or 3.04 shots per 90). He doesn't need a lot of touches during the game or need a lot of space either. He's a pure goal scorer with a clinical finish. This is actually what DC United fans can come to expect from Saborio in their system:

The above chalkboard is from Saborio's United debut against the Union where he completed just 15 passes, three of which came from the center circle as kick offs. Those touches inside the box? Those are his three shots, with one goal to credit. 

Prior to his arrival, DC United's offensive output looked like this:

  • 24 goals scored in 22 games.
  • 1.09 G/90, good for 18th in MLS
  • Our xG model had them second to last at 1.01 xG.
  • They had taken a total of 226 team shots, good for 16th in MLS

Of those 22 games played, they managed to score more than one goal only seven times and had been shut out four times. In other words, their offense bad. Real bad. And in Saborio they get a respectable 3.07 xG added to their side (higher now since that stat didn't account for his showing against PHI last Sunday). And although it was against a pretty lowly Union squad, DC managed to put up 15 shots in Saborio's debut.

What about RSL in all this? Sadly, due to injuries and lack of playing time there aren't enough chalkboards (read: games started or games with significant minutes) in 2015 for Luis Silva. He's only started four games and that's too small of a sample size to work off of for this year, but last season he was 46th in the league in xG+xA per 90 minutes, at 0.45.

All that really matters for this year and the next is to see how DC United incorporate their new striker and how to get the most of out of him (see: chances and goals) to hopefully lift this United side to another trophy. As for RSL, it's going to be a wait and see kind of thing for the next 2-3 years to evaluate how Jeff Cassar reconstructs the team into more of his vision than predecessor Jason Kreis'.