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SANDY — After missing the last two matches for Real Salt Lake, forward Alvaro Saborio is set to return for the Salt Lake club's final Major League Soccer regular-season game Saturday night as it hosts the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Saborio was ineligible to play in Tuesday’s Champions League match with C.S. Herediano due to a yellow-card accumulation, which earned him a one-game suspension. Before that, Saborio was on international duty during the club's last MLS match, which was against Seattle.
The Costa Rican striker, who is the Salt Lake club's leading scorer, couldn’t return at a more crucial time for the Claret and Cobalt as Saturday’s match with Vancouver has more weight than just regular-season points.
RSL head coach Jason Kreis admitted after the Herediano draw — the second draw in a row for the club — that Saborio is the club's finisher.
“We know he’s an important player,” Kreis told the media. “He seems to be the one that always is able to take that initial play in the penalty box to make the difference. When we play without him we don’t typically have someone that’s always in the box, always there to make that finish for us.”
Saborio has 17 goals on the season in MLS play and 19 in all competitions.
Sitting in third place in the MLS Western Conference with 56 points and a 17-11-5 record, the Salt Lake club's first playoff match is already set against the Seattle Sounders, but the location is yet to be determined.
Saturday’s match also holds qualification implications for the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League.
Additionally, the Salt Lake club has a chance to make history Saturday night inside Rio Tinto. A victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps would give RSL 59 points and a total of 18 wins on the season. The Salt Lake club's previous records are 56 points and 15 wins from the 2010 season.
Following Saturday’s nights match against Vancouver and Seattle’s Sunday night match against the Los Angeles Galaxy, RSL will know its fate for its first 2012 playoff game and if the Salt Lake club will travel to Seattle or host the Sounders inside Rio Tinto Stadium.
Kira Terry is a sports writer covering Real Salt Lake for KSL.com. Follow her on Twitter, @kiraterry.