It’s the question of the day, and possibly, the rest of Real Salt Lake’s season.
After he looks at game film from last night’s 4-0 win over San Jose, should RSL head coach Jason Kreis call moody but prolific Costa Rican forward Alvaro Saborio into his office and have a chat about Sabo’s supposed swan dive against the Earthquakes, which resulted in Real‘s first goal?
On the other hand, what harm would it do not to?
According to the replay, Saborio snaked his way between two defenders. However, when he got to the top of the penalty box, it appeared he may have propelled himself toward the ground.
The supposed foul resulted in a red card being shown to San Jose defender Bobby Burling, who swears he didn’t make contact with Sabo, and a penalty kick for Saborio, which he converted. Let the conversation begin.
“I haven’t got a chance to watch the replay. I didn’t touch [Saborío]. I thought it was going to be a possible yellow card for a dive if anything. They talked to each other and came over and changed it around. It didn’t make sense at all,” Burling said.
Whoa. Stop the presses; somebody may have taken a dive, oh no!
Go to any amateur league game and you will see balding, chubby 30-year-olds perfect this art time and again, flinging themselves into the 18-yard space like hyper-sensitive beluga whales in cleats and an undersized, heavily sponsored jerseys, customized with their names and the No. 9.
Wives scream at and plead with referees to please help their fallen spouses, and their kids—most of whom play in youth leagues–watch this calamity go down with a morbid curiosity and attempt it themselves at their games.
People are looking at this event in good ‘ol, conservative Utah as “Divegate,” where all of a sudden, there is this major controversy, a potentially cataclysmic event even overshadowing the game itself.
Of course, the dive is as old as the game itself, it just isn’t a part of the game that any soccer player is actually proud of.
“If that’s a real penalty, no problems. If it’s not a penalty I have a big problem, so it better be. I haven’t seen it yet, but it better be a penalty kick,” said San Jose head coach Frank Yallop.
So, on one side, you have that argument: what is ethical. Yallop has a point; the aim here is not to teach kids how to dive in the penalty box to earn a cheap goal; it’s to teach them how to play the game right.
What RSL cares about also, is its public persona taking a hit because the perception is that RSL did not earn that first goal, and therefore, the win itself.
Twitter exploded with that sentiment last night, putting the flop up there with that of D.C. United forward Charlie Davies, whose dive cost RSL a chance at a win at Rio Tinto several weeks ago.
Soccer By Ives, a well respected Web site, tweeted late last night after the Sabo dive: “…Has to be one of the least-fulfilling 4-0 wins, or should be. At least RSL fans sound rightly upset.”
Even some RSL fans booed the performance against a 10-man, severely limited San Jose team. What’s more is that Saborio’s dive is likely to warrant a fine from Major League Soccer after review.
On the other hand, those same folks who take dives in city and county parks may see things another way: dives are just part of the game.
Besides, what makes another confrontation necessary, since engineering goals has been going on for years, anyway?
Putting Kreis and Saborio in the same room is like placing two bulls in a china closet; both are stubborn, both are goal scorers and both have bad tempers.
Here’s the other thing: Kreis and Saborio don’t always get along. Both have had their share of run-ins, and run-outs, with each other this season, including a memorable and toxic exchange after Kreis pulled Sabo from a game just two weeks ago.
In that game, the Costa Rican international didn’t shake Kreis’ hand after being subbed out. Instead of walking to his spot on the bench, Saborio stormed up the tunnel into the locker room.
Kreis is in fine mid-season form, it seems, with his temper as well. Case in point: last night, when he had another exchange, not with his own player, but with San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch, after the game.
Kreis didn’t talk about San Jose’s red card, or the supposed dive, or the run-in with Busch, but he did talk about Saborio.
“His play since he’s been back (from the CONCACAF Gold Cup) has been fantastic. He hasn’t scored in every game but you don’t have to score in every game. I think that forwards can do a lot of other things, and tonight he did a lot things really well for this team and it was good to see him get on the scoreboard,” Kreis said.
All this leads to one question: what will go down if Kreis talks to Saborio? Were the coach’s comments a sort of olive branch extended to the Costa Rican? And if the two do sit down and talk, will it lead to fisticuffs in the hallway or a gentlemanly chat and a spot of tea? What changes between Kreis’ demeanor last night and two days from now?
It’s clear that doing the right thing is important to RSL, so unfortunately to some, this conversation between these two bulls must take place.
The club prides itself on not just focusing on its star talent, which Saborio most certainly is (he’s scored five goals in the last four games, including two against San Jose last night) as the club’s designated player.
That’s not a bad thing; it just makes the negotiations interesting.
It is doubtful that anyone on RSL actually cares about Saborio flopping to get the penalty kick; professional fouls are a part of any game and will be for years, and decades to come.
No matter what side of the field you’re on, the All-Star break just got more interesting as RSL now heads into the second part of its season.
With four games in hand over its Western Conference foes, 33 points and some big-time momentum, RSL has one big dilemma on its hands now that its team is beginning to show signs of life.