While all of the excitement surrounding Real Salt Lake’s signing of attacking midfielder Albert Rusnák came to a boil on Friday, it was percolating right below the surface as late as Thursday when Real Salt Lake General Manager Craig Waibel joined The Bill Riley Show on ESPN 700. Not long before he and his staff met Rusnák at the airport, Waibel remained guarded in his optimism that the 22-year-old Slovakian playmaker would put pen to paper, but had lofty praise nonetheless.
“He’s very talented, very active. He certainly has a lot of years ahead of him and a lot of promise to him,” Waibel said on Thursday. “The way he plays the game is good connectivity and good distribution. Individually, technically talented on the ball as well. It’s someone we think can translate to MLS. It’s not a five-minute transition, but he’s a player that the more we watched him the more we start feeling very comfortable that he’s going to be successful in our league.”
Rusnák played his last three seasons at FC Groningen in the Eredivisie in Holland, leading his club to the KNVB Cup in 2015 with two goals in a 2-0 victory in the final. A product of the Manchester City youth system, he started his career at City, but went on loan to Oldham Athletic and Birmingham City in England before finding his feet in the Dutch League, first with SC Cambuur and then with Groningen.
That experience in the Eredivisie stands to be beneficial in Rusnák’s transition to Real Salt Lake and Major League Soccer.
“I think there’s a lot of similarity between the leagues. We’ve been focusing on the Dutch market in the last 8-12 months, which is where our interest in Albert originated from,” Waibel said. “There is a transition period and I think the Dutch league and MLS have some similarities.”
Still just 22 years old, Rusnák steps into a young group of attacking players that already features several players under the age of 25, including Joao Plata, Jordan Allen and Sebastian Saucedo. Coupled with veteran talent like Yura Movsisyan and Luke Mulholland and RSL is methodically putting the pieces together to continue to boast the potent offense that was so ubiquitous in the first half of the season in 2016.
For now, though, Rusnák will just look to get incorporated into the team and his excitement at that opportunity upon arrival was palpable as he was greeted by club staff and a smattering of fans at Salt Lake City International Airport.
“It’s the next challenge in the steps of his career and over the course of the conversations it added up for he and us,” Waibel said.
To hear the full interview, click here.