Faith, family, hamburger homesickness: 10 things about Jefferson Savarino

Jefferson Savarino - Real Salt Lake - celebrates a goal vs. LA Galaxy - solo

Jefferson Savarino has made a quick impact for Real Salt Lake’s attack since joining the team on loan from Venezuelan side Zulia FC in May.

Savarino has two goals and two assists in nine appearances, playing on the wing opposite either Joao Plata or Brooks Lennon and filling in as the central attacking midfielder when RSL’s other Young Designated Player, Albert Rusnak, was gone with the Slovakian U-21s.

Over the past year especially, Savarino has taken advantage of every opportunity he has been given and is looking to continue building on his success at just 20 years of age.

Started at 15, breakout season by 19

Savarino played for Zulia FC’s U-20 team when he was 15 and made his way into the senior team at 18 thanks to his work ethic.

“It was definitely a process. It was very difficult to adapt to the professional level, but when I was 18 and 19 years old I could play the game much better.”

That form showed in 2016 when Savarino scored 21 goals last year as a 19-year-old in Venezuela and started this season with seven goals in 15 games, including a goal in Copa Libertadores play, before moving to RSL on loan.

“I didn’t think it would happen," Savarino said. "I had the opportunity to score 21 goals and win two titles. It was a great experience. I’m very thankful for last season.”

Opportunity keeps knocking

His play last season gave him the opportunity to come to Salt Lake and play in MLS and earned him his first cap for the Venezuelan national team. With all the new opportunities. he’s handling it just like he did when he was a teenager in Zulia’s first team.

“I brought my work ethic,” Savarino said. “In each practice I try to get better so each game is better. On the field, I try to score, assist my teammates, try to always play well. I’m not that perfect to play every game as well as I can, but I always try to play well enough to support the rest of the team.”

He’s on loan until the end of the season, but he hopes to accomplish plenty with Salt Lake and see where his next opportunity will take him.

“Of course I want to win titles with RSL,” Savarino said. “The team always wants to win and we have the opportunity to do so. A player always wants to score goals and win titles, and if I can do that I can play well enough to go to a team in Europe after this, but only God knows my future.”

What’s in a Venezuelan hamburger?

Savarino has now been away from Venezuela for the longest stretch of any in his life and he’s figuring out just what he’s missing by being away for an extended period of time.

“I miss the food more, but I have my wife who cooks for me,” Savarino said. “ I miss my family, of course. I miss Venezuela. I miss Maracaibo.”

He grew up in Maracaibo and played for the hometown team, but there’s one thing that’s just different in America that really makes him miss Venezuela.

“It’s the hamburgers from Venezuela I miss the most.”

The other kind of home cooking

A month after joining RSL, Savarino was selected to play for the senior Venezuelan national team in a friendly against the United States. It was hosted at Rio Tinto Stadium – and as much as a first cap for the national team was a special moment, so was playing in front of his own fans.

“Playing with the national team is always a great experience, even more I had the opportunity to play in my house, if you want to call it that," he said. "I had the opportunity to play 20 minutes and take advantage of getting on the field. It was a great experience.”

Playing in a familiar venue made it easier on him, but he’s always able to keep his nerves about him once he’s actually in the game.

“There isn’t a player who isn’t nervous before a game, but once I’m on the field I feel comfortable," Savarino said "I’m doing what I love and I can give it my best."

Venezuela on his mind

With the political tumult and unrest that continues to plague Venezuela, Savarino has decided to keep up with what’s going on in Caracas and the rest of Venezuela in hopes of something changing that will improve his homeland while he’s away.

“I have to live in reality,” Savarino said. “I’m here but I’m thinking of my country. I ask God every day for my country to change and I know someday Venezuela will see the light.”

Waiting on the Wasatch

Savarino has enjoyed his time in Salt Lake and has had family members with him to enjoy his time off from practice and the team.

“I like to go and visit tourist spots with my wife and my father who has been here, play video games, read the Bible, just a lot of things to train my mind and have fun,” Savarino said. “I have gone to a farm, parks, and other spots, but I still haven’t gone to the mountains, but I see them every day.”

Gone fishin'

Savarino has, however, added being a fisherman to his list of things he has done since coming to Utah. He would fish some in Venezuela, but he’s getting a completely different experience in the rivers and streams around Salt Lake City.

“I didn’t fish a lot in Venezuela, but a little bit,” Savarino said. “In Maracaibo, there’s a lake you can fish in; some parts are contaminated, but there are places you can fish and people do.”

Faith matters

Savarino lost his mother when he was 10 and has a strong faith in God. He doesn’t hesitate to involve God in his life.

“Before a game I read the Bible, ask God to help me play my best, to protect me and my teammates and to help us win,” Savarino said.

On a game-by-game basis that doesn’t always happen, but Savarino is extremely grateful for everything he has been able to accomplish in his life so far.

How long?

Savarino is on loan until the end of the season and while this season may well determine the next step in his career, what will happen in December and January isn’t a pressing thought right now.

“I’m not thinking about my loan, only God knows my future,” Savarino said. “Right now, I’m thinking about working hard and playing well each game. When the end of the season comes, I’ll see if I stay here or go elsewhere.”

Beautiful communication

In his time at RSL, he’s not only started English classes, but has also learned a lot from his teammates, both when it comes to English and soccer.

“All of my teammates have helped translate for me when I don’t understand," Savarino said. "On the field, we have had beautiful communication which has helped me adapt to the team."

He’ll continue to learn the language, but Savarino seemed to pick up from Day 1 how the team needed to play and where he fit in. That has made performing well that much easier.

“We always communicate by signal, by how we move," he said. "I understand how they move and play, and they know my way of playing, and that’s better because it’s not just language, but we actually understand the way we all play together.”