SANDY, Utah (Friday, January 6, 2017) - Real Salt Lake today introduced Manchester City Academy product and former FC Groningen MF Albert Rusnák as the Club's latest roster addition, as a Young Designated Player. Rusnák (pronounced ROOS-knock), born on July 7, 1994 in the city of Vyskov in the former Czech Republic, arrived in Utah mid-afternoon on Thursday to complete a medical evaluation, while Friday saw RSL and Rusnák agree on terms, finalizing his agreement with the Club. Albert will join the team in preseason pending his U.S. P-1 visa approval and receipt of his International Transfer Certificate.
"We are extremely excited about what Albert can bring to our attack," Real Salt Lake General Manager Craig Waibel said. "The arrival from Europe of a young player of his caliber is a big move for our club. He has a really solid pedigree from one of the world's most-respected academies, and what he's done as a young professional to help FC Groningen in the Dutch Eredivisie and for Slovakia on the international level are excellent indicators that he can contribute right away with RSL."
Rusnák, 22, played the last three seasons with FC Groningen in the Netherlands' top flight, logging 61 appearances. In addition to starting regularly in the attacking midfield role in league play, he also started six matches in Europa League in 2015. The Slovakian international started his senior professional career with England's Manchester City in 2013, a product of the international powerhouse's youth academy for three seasons from 2010-13. He spent the first part of the 2013/14 season on loan with Oldham Athletic in England's League One before finishing out the year in the Championship with Birmingham City. The following season, he started the year on loan to Cambuur Leeuwarden in the Dutch Eredivisie before being transferred to FC Groningen in December of 2014.
"The key factor in choosing Real Salt Lake was the interest that they have shown," Rusnák said, arriving in Major League Soccer despite interest from AS Roma (Italy) and Swansea City (England), among others. "In the end, that's what decided it, the feeling that this club wants me the most. I always want to play for the club where I'm going to feel good, where people want me and that's what decided it. It won't be easy, but I believe in my qualities and hopefully I will show them off to my coaches, teammates and the fans from Day 1."
With Groningen, Rusnák made a quick impact, with three goals and five assists in 16 league matches, also scoring both goals in the club's 2-0 win over PEC Zwolle in Holland's KNVB Cup final, securing a trophy and an appearance in Europa League the following year. Rusnák tallied four goals and added one assist in 30 matches the following season. In addition to his club soccer, Rusnák has also been a key contributor on the international stage for Slovakia. He had two goals in six caps at the U-19 level, then notched four goals in 10 appearances at the U-21 level. In 2016, he made his debut for the Slovakia National Team and boasts one cap to his credit, with many more expected to come.
"What we saw in Albert was a 22-year-old player with vast experience playing in a very demanding league in Holland and a young player who is breaking into his national team," Real Salt Lake Head Coach Jeff Cassar said. "He can get on the score sheet with assists or with goals. He is a dynamic player off the dribble and powerful on the dribble and he can hurt opponents with his passing. He turns up in a lot of different places on the field and another of his strengths is his timing with late runs into the box. We are eager to see how he fits in here in Utah."
The team is also looking at pursuing former L.A. Galaxy star Landon Donovan. RSL General Manager Craig Waibel told 2News on Friday that conversations between the club and Donovan have occurred, but it's way too early in the process to know which way the MLS star is leaning.