SANDY — Robbie Findley didn’t score a goal in Real Salt Lake's victory over Montreal Thursday, but big picture, his performance and presence might’ve been as important as the win itself.
With Alvaro Saborio on the shelf until October at the earliest, and RSL’s young strikers struggling with any semblance of consistency, the club desperately needs Findley’s veteran presence up top game in and game out.
Thursday was Findley’s first start at Rio Tinto Stadium since offseason knee surgery, and despite his hamstring tightening slightly midway through the first half, he logged 59 minutes and showed signs of rediscovering the form he ended the 2013 campaign with.
“It felt good. It’s been a long, long time. Being out there starting, to get 60 minutes felt really good,” said Findley.
His presence added a different dimension to Real Salt Lake’s attack.
“I think the guys like to have that option to be able to go over the top and threaten and open up the game a little bit, and then it opens up the midfield,” said RSL coach Jeff Cassar.
“It’s massive for our rotation. It’s massive to really keep the other teams’ defense honest because all the teams respect Robbie’s speed and athleticism. On top of that, he’s a proven goalscorer in our league.”
Last year Findley scored six goals for Real Salt Lake, but really came on in the playoffs, scoring twice in four games. During the playoff stretch he showed signs of emerging as one of MLS’s elite strikers.
RSL defender Nat Borchers said getting Findley back 100 percent will be a huge asset for the final few months of the season.
“I think we really need Robbie Findley to get back to 90-minutes fit, to be playing games consecutively for us and staying out of the training room,” said Borchers. “You look at the run we went on at the end of last year, he was such a key piece to that run. He was one of the sharpest strikers in the league I think at that time, and that just comes with games and training sessions and staying healthy.”
RSL had hoped to have Findley back in late May, but his return from knee surgery ran into snags when he had setbacks with his thigh and then groin. Findley said those type of setbacks after major surgery are common, but he now feels right.
Even though Real Salt Lake only has two victories in its last nine matches since losing Saborio, Findley says he doesn’t feel any extra added pressure to pick up the scoring slack.
“I’m just going to try and finish my opportunities when I get them, focus on them. That’s it,” he added.
Prior to this season, Findley had scored 35 goals in 6,833 career minutes spread out over five seasons with RSL. That’s a goal every 195 minutes. This year he’s played 179 minutes in four matches, so if history holds true, he’s due for a goal early against the New York Red Bulls this Wednesday.