SANDY, Utah – While he isn’t a household name yet in MLS, Albert Rusnak is the first player Real Salt Lake supporters point to for the team’s offensive resurgence this season. A lot has changed for the Claret and Cobalt's No. 10 thus far in 2017, but he’s handled it all and has been consistent contributor when he steps on the pitch.
He made the move from the Eredivisie to MLS as a Designated Player, only to have the head coach change three games into the season.
He took the reins of the Salt Lake attack, replacing fan favorite Javier Morales, and has seven goals and 13 assists to his name, after as he put it, the team “wasted the first part of the season.”
Rusnak also took some big steps for the Slovakia national team, playing in the European U-21 Championship this summer, working his way into the senior team rotation, playing against England in Wembley Stadium last month and finally earning his first start in a 3-0 win over Malta earlier this week. Unfortunately for Rusnak and his compatriots, Slovakia would only just miss out on the chance at World Cup qualifying playoff, finishing as the worst second-place team across the nine European qualifying groups.
Back home, Rusnak became a father at the end of September and recent rumors have European clubs interested in prying him away from Salt Lake.
Even through all of that, Rusnak has remained confident in his abilities on the field and has shown it consistently, whether in MLS or World Cup qualifiers.
“I felt great before I left and I feel even better coming back,” Rusnak said of his recent stretch with the Slovakian national team. “Getting that start helped my confidence even more and I feel very happy to be back and ready to go these last two games.”
His progress with his country leads to a good chance Rusnak will get selected in the future.
“I thought Albert did very well,” RSL head coach Mike Petke said. “I know they’re out of the World Cup but I expect any future call-ups he’ll be a part of it, because he’s earned that and deserves it.”
As for his immediate future, the next two games, starting on Sunday against Colorado (7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE) will be big ones, with RSL sitting one point out of the playoffs in the Western Conference. The pressure for two good performances and six points isn’t anything new. Rusnak has consistently said the pressure for on-field results doesn’t bother him.
“In one way we have had that pressure since June,” Rusnak said. “That pressure has been on us if we wanted to make the playoffs, but it would be another disappointing and sad ending if we don’t make the playoffs.”