SAN JOSE -- Costa Rica's slim chances of making it out of Group D suffered a major blow Thursday. Álvaro Saborío, the team's top scorer in CONCACAF qualifying, was diagnosed with a fractured fifth metatarsal and will miss the World Cup.
While running morning sprints, Saborío felt a pain in his right foot and by the afternoon team doctors had confirmed the worst. He'll be out for at least three months -- meaning that Costa Rica loses its most prolific scorer for Brazil.
Saborío, 32, learned of the fracture during the penultimate day of Costa Rica's training camp, leaving the coaching staff with little time to find another option. Unlike Uruguay, who might be without star striker Luis Suarez in the opening match against the Ticos on June 14, Costa Rica has little depth beyond the team's starters.
Additionally, head coach Jorge Luis Pinto schemes place an enormous emphasis on defense, and defensive specialists made up a large portion of the 26-man training camp. He hoped he could rely on the veteran Saborío as the primary forward, with 21-year-old rising star Joel Campbell serving as the other key scoring threat.
Pinto didn't reveal who he expects to sub for Saborío, but he said the player will come from within the camp. That makes Marco Ureña and Randall "Chiqui" Brenes the most likely option. Pinto is an admirer of Ureña, but the forward received barely any playing time in recent matches with his Russian club. Brenes is a local star, who has disappointed in recent appearances with La Sele.
Costa Rica will not call up either of the two forwards on its waiting list: Jairo Arrieta of the Columbus Crew and Randall Arauz of Saprissa. Saborío will be the first of three final cuts for the team. The coach will reveal his final 23-man roster Saturday morning.
Pinto's voice cracked as he confirmed the news to media in the afternoon, feeling crushed for Saborío and wondering how he could replace his productivity.
Here's what the team will be missing in Brazil without Saborío:
1. He led the team in scoring during qualifying with eight goals (Campbell, Brenes Bryan Ruiz and Celso Borges are tied for 2nd with three goals apiece). Saborío is also the most recent player to score for Costa Rica. He scored the final goal for The Ticos during their 2-1 friendly victory against Paraguay in March.
2. He is the national team's third all-time leading scorer, with 32 international goals in 93 appearances.
3. He was one of the few players on the roster with prior World Cup experience. Saborío went with La Sele to Germany during the team's most recent World Cup appearance in 2006 and subbed into two matches.
4. While he's had a reputation for coming up short in big international moments in the past (most famously when he missed two penalty kicks in a 2-1 loss to Honduras during a 2011 Gold Cup match), Saborío has developed into one of the best players in the U.S.'s Major League Soccer. He joined the team in 2010, and has since become Real Salt Lake's all-time leading scorer.
The fracture was a shocking end to a week that started with the best day of Saborío's life when his wife gave birth to the couple's first child. He's also the second Costa Rican star to be declared out this month due to an injury. Top defender Bryan Oviedo was ruled out in early May with a broken leg. He suffered the injury while playing for Everton on January, but the leg couldn't mend fast enough.
Saborio's absence will represent one more obstacle for a squad that's had the cards stacked against it ever since the draw placed them in a group with former World Cup champions Uruguay, Italy and England. The now even-heavier underdog Ticos must try to craft solutions to this month's misfortunes in upcoming friendlies in the U.S. versus Japan (June 2) and Ireland (June 6).