The last time Yura Movsisyan wore the Claret and Cobalt of Real Salt Lake, he was lifting the MLS Cup trophy at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field in 2009. Now, poised to make his return to Rio Tinto Stadium after a loan agreement with Spartak Moscow of the Russian Premier League, he has his sights set on winning the league again in his second stint with RSL after the club announced his signing on Friday.
“Leaving with a championship – I want to come back and do that again. I want to win more championships with Salt Lake – with the club that I was part of the evolution,” Movsisyan said. “I was part of the team that went basically from the bottom to being champions. This is what I want to do again and what I’m excited about. For me, it’s an amazing thing to come back.”
Movsisyan left RSL as a promising 22-year-old forward who had scored 15 goals in two full seasons with the club. He saw a challenge abroad in signing with Randers in Denmark, seeking to help the club avoid relegation after a 16-match winless streak to start the season. He not only kept them in the top flight, he led them on a 14-match unbeaten run upon his arrival. From there, he took on another challenge when he moved to FC Krasnodar in the Russian Premier League, then another with Spartak Moscow.
Those types of challenges have peppered his career, dating all the way back to his arrival in MLS after becoming the highest-picked player in the history of the MLS SuperDraft who was not a U.S. youth international and did not go to a Division I school.
Now 28 years old, Movsisyan returns to a team that missed the postseason for the first time and another challenge awaits on the Wasatch Front.
“For me, when I left to go to Denmark, I went from a championship team to a team that was about to get relegated in a country where it was difficult to adapt. As a young guy, I needed to score goals and that was the only thing I had on my mind. Year-by-year, team-by-team, I just grew,” he said. “Having gone through these different leagues and played at different teams, the challenge is all I look for. These challenges are what make me want to get up and play and score goals. I need challenges in my career. I need challenges to play. At different stages of my career, I’ve faced a lot of different challenges, which excites me. Now coming back to Salt Lake is another challenge for me – to come back and score even more than I scored when I played here when I was a young kid.”
The league he returns to is much different than the one he left in 2009. At that stage, MLS clubs each were allowed one Designated Player and David Beckham was easily the highest-profile player in the league. Now, with many teams carrying three DPs and the profile of the league rising immensely, names like Sebastian Giovinco, David Villa and Kaka call MLS home.
However, Movsisyan has experience playing in leagues with big-name stars and excelling. In the 2011-12 season, he finished fourth in the league with 14 goals then outpaced the likes of Hulk and Samuel Eto’o to lead the league in scoring the following year.
Finding his place among those types of players in a league of that stature boosted his confidence and helped him reach the level that has seen him score 10 goals in 35 appearances for Armenia.
“In the Russian League you had a lot of big names. They spend so much money on big players. Over the years once I started scoring goals and scoring consistently, it was just about my team,” he said. “That’s a very high level in Europe, so for me to match up against those guys and score more goals than other big-name players, it’s a pleasure. You want to measure yourself against these guys. That has made me a lot more focused because I needed to prove day-to-day that I could score every game and that has made me who I am today.”
The team he returns to features a strong attacking core with Javier Morales pulling the strings behind a forward line that includes Joao Plata and Juan Manuel Martinez, as well as Sebastian Jaime.
With that core in place, Movsisyan is primed for a strong start to the 2016 season, beginning with the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal Round meeting with UANL Tigres on February 24 in Mexico and March 2 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge and for me the league has become one of the elite leagues in the world. RSL is one of the biggest clubs in MLS because of the history, because of what we achieved and what was achieved after me,” he said. “I’m really, really excited and now I’m more mature and a lot more confident. It should be fun. I think we’re going to have a lot of fun.”