Albert Rusnak returns to RSL stomping grounds with Seattle Sounders

Albert Rusnak Seattle Sounders

Still in the early days of his ​​​​Seattle Sounders FC career, midfielder Albert Rusnak will play his former team this weekend when visiting Real Salt Lake for a Saturday showdown at Rio Tinto Stadium (6 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+, on DAZN in Canada).

It’s just his second league match in a Rave Green uniform, having joined the club in January as a prized free-agent signing who spent the last five seasons with the Claret-and-Cobalt.

This looming moment isn’t lost on the 27-year-old Slovakian international, whose RSL career spanned five seasons after arriving stateside from Eredivisie club ​​Groningen. He’s not focused on the individual angle, but rather rebounding from a 1-0 season-opening loss to Nashville SC.

“It’s a place where I’ve been for five years, so it’s a familiar place to me,” Rusnak said. “I know all about the possibility of playing a snow game and then the altitude and all those factors. It’s familiar for me, but for the rest of the guys it’s another away game and so it’s [the same] for me.

“We're going there now and we had a disappointing start to the season. We know they tied on the road at [Houston] as well, which is probably a positive result. We’re going there and I’m expecting a tough game. We definitively have to perform better than we did against Nashville.”

As single-minded as Rusnak is, he remains in contact with his former teammates. He was RSL’s captain before jetting to the Pacific Northwest this offseason, leaving a sizable hole behind in Utah.

“There’s a couple group chats I’m in with a few guys and we haven’t spoken about it just yet, but there’s a few guys I keep in touch with on a weekly basis,” Rusnak said.

About six weeks removed from signing with Seattle, Rusnak is still finding his footing in a front-six that includes a midfield trio of Cristian Roldan, Joao Paulo and Nicolas Lodeiro, then fellow forwards Jordan Morris and Raul Ruidiaz.

They form a high-ceiling group, that – at least on paper – could leave Seattle competing for a third MLS Cup in 2022. The club previously won the league title match in 2016 and 2019.

“I wouldn’t single him out, I think the whole group just needs to mesh a little more,” head coach Brian Schmetzer said of Rusnak’s early acclimation. “We still haven’t had Albert and Nico and JP and Jordan and Raul on the field for the extended amount of time. So we're building on that, we understand injuries are part of the game. We have to overcome some of those challenges, but once we get everyone healthy, we get everyone going, I’m confident in the group.”

Aside from their Week 1 loss, Rusnak has also helped Seattle reach the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals via a 5-0 aggregate win over Honduras’ FC Motagua in the Round of 16. Over the next two weeks, they’ll look to book a semifinal spot by beating Club Leon and exact revenge on their 2021 Leagues Cup loss to the Liga MX side.

But first comes the match before them, one that Schmetzer is confident Rusnak will meet in stride.

“For Albert, he’s competitive, he wants to be better than his buddies and show them – I’m sure Albert will be motivated,” Schmetzer remarked.