After bidding farewell to fan-favorite and creative midfield talent Javier Morales after the conclusion of Major League Soccer's 2016 season, Real Salt Lake are close to signing a replacement.
In a January 3 statement on the official website of Dutch Eredivisie side FC Groningen, managing director Hans Nijland stated that his club had reached an agreement to send 22-year-old Albert Rusnak to RSL, pending Rusnak formally agreeing to terms with the Utah-based side.
Reports now suggest that the Slovakian attacking midfielder will arrive in Salt Lake City on Thursday, January 5 to complete the few steps remaining to formalize his transfer into Major League Soccer. Rusnak will likely fill one of RSL's three designated player slots as a Young Designated Player (a league designation applying to designated players age 23 or younger and carrying a lower budget charge than a standard designated player).
Rusnak's signing continues a trend for Real Salt Lake toward becoming a much younger team, as the squad that won MLS Cup 2009 and competed for MLS Cup 2013 has aged and moved on to other teams.
Rusnak joins RSL after two years at FC Groningen. The young number 10 started his career in the Manchester City development system with loan stints in the English Championship and League One. Rusnak debuted for the Slovakia senior national team in November against Austria, entering the game for the second half as a substitute.
In Rusnak, Real Salt Lake hope to find a suitable replacement for midfield maestro Javier Morales, who at age 36 (turning 37 on January 10) has finally begun to show signs of slowing. At 22, Rusnak will provide RSL with youth in the midfield while hopefully demonstrating the same creative flair that made Morales a mainstay at Rio Tinto Stadium. While RSL anticipates some growing pains for its new midfielder, the organization nevertheless hopes its new acquisition will have a significant positive impact on the team's attack, which stagnated in the second half of 2016.