Mike Petke hoped he wouldn’t need to use Albert Rusnák in Friday’s nationally-televised match with Orlando City. The Real Salt Lake playmaker had just endured two days of travel in his return from a strong performance for Slovakia at the UEFA U-21 Championships, but was still available on the bench. However, a late 1-0 deficit called for Petke to bring on the young midfielder in search of a last-minute spark. And while it didn’t lead to an equalizer, getting Rusnák back with the Claret-and-Cobalt will be beneficial as RSL looks to break out of its road funk on Tuesday against the LA Galaxy.
“I didn’t feel in full shape, but I felt good enough to do 10 minutes,” Rusnák said Saturday. “Tomorrow will be a new day and I’m already ready for Tuesday.”
It was a busy and fortuitous European trip for Rusnák. Not only did he start in all three matches at the U-21 Championships, but he also was in camp for Slovakia and made a late substitute appearance in a 2-1 World Cup qualifying win on June 10 against Lithuania. That win moved Slovakia into second in Group F in UEFA World Cup qualifying at 4-2-0 with four matches left to play.
With that experience and the rigors of the group stage in the U-21 tournament, Rusnák returns with an urgency to succeed. Although Slovakia went 2-1-0 with wins over Poland and Sweden, goal difference ended up keeping the team from advancing.
“I got experience playing against some top players. Although it was a U-21 tournament, many of those players are in big teams,” he said. “We were playing under so much pressure – every goal conceded mattered and every goal scored was a good thing. That one goal knocked us out of the tournament, so every goal is important in the game.”
In addition to his play on the field, Rusnák also served as an ambassador of sorts for Real Salt Lake and Major League Soccer. Speaking to players for Slovakia and the opposing countries in the tournament, he had fond things to say for the club he joined as a Designated Player in January. Already with three goals and five assists through 15 matches, Rusnák has been a welcome addition to RSL this season.
“They’ve been asking about MLS and they knew about MLS than I imagined. That shows that MLS is known also in Europe,” he said. “It was a good experience and a great atmosphere at the tournament. Overall, it was a positive trip.”