Sergio Cordova RSL

Following the departure of Designated Player midfielder Albert Rusnak to Seattle Sounders FC in free agency, Real Salt Lake had a void to fill in their attack.

With the arrival of newly-signed Venezuelan striker Sergio Cordova, RSL hope they've found a player to mitigate Rusnak jetting across the Western Conference in mid-January.

The 24-year-old arrives at RSL from the German Bundesliga, where he had been with FC Augsburg since 2017, doing an intra-league loan stint with Arminia Bielefeld in 2020-21. New RSL majority owner Dave Blitzer is also a major shareholder with FC Augsburg, a connection that general manager Elliot Fall said came into play as Cordova was identified as a loan target after being on the Claret-and-Cobalt's radar for some time.

"When the ownership group came in and the connection with Augsburg was there and we found out Sergio may be available on loan, we just jumped at it," Fall said. "He was a player that we all liked and all felt would fit our league really well. He's a great age, he's been effective at a very high level and we think he can provide that for us here. And he's really versatile as well, he can play any of those front three spots. It was a fit that really made a lot of sense."

Cordova isn't a complete like-for-like replacement for Rusnak in terms of skillset, with his game more based around speed and power. Though Fall said that he combines those attributes with plenty of technical skill, along with positional versatility that will provide flexibility to head coach Pablo Mastroeni.

During his time in the Bundesliga and with Venezuela's national team, which has given him 15 senior caps, Cordova has featured as a wide attacker and up top.

"Physically, he's very strong, he's a big body, so he will create some physical mismatches in our league," Fall said. "He's also just very athletic, so strong, fast. And he's a technically gifted player and he's got a bit of a nose for goal, so he can be goal-dangerous from any of those three spots. But again, he has the physical attributes to contribute at any of them. On the wing he has the speed and quickness to be able to defend the way he needs to and to be fair, the same up top. So he just provides that flexibility."

Another connection that Cordova said helped facilitate the move was his relationship with former RSL attacker Jefferson Savarino, who was a standout for the club from 2017-20 before departing for Brazilian side Atlético Mineiro. Cordova and Savarino know each other well having played together for Venezuela, and Cordova said his international teammate gave him positive reviews of his time with RSL.

"Savarino is a good friend and we've shared many moments on the national team," Cordova said through a translator. "Before coming here, I asked about how everything was, how was the city, how was the team? And to be honest he only said good things. He said the city was incredible, the team was very good and that was also one of the things that helped me take the step towards coming to Salt Lake."

Cordova's arrival doesn't necessarily mean RSL are done making additions between now and their 2022 opener Feb. 27 at Houston Dynamo FC, Mastroeni said. Notably, they've been linked with a move for Colombian international midfielder Gustavo Cuellar.

RSL are coming off a 2021 season where they reached the Western Conference Final in the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs, scoring two upset victories over Seattle and Sporting Kansas City before falling to the Portland Timbers.

"There could be a couple pieces, players that may join the group. I think for us the most important thing is get everyone healthy," Mastroeni said. "We've had quite a few injuries and we've had a great number of players out with Covid. So we have yet to have a session with the whole group. The majority of the group has been academy players and trialists, those are the guys that have been there from the beginning. So I think more than players in, it's getting the whole group together to be able to train as a group. Again the guys that have been training have been really sharp and I think we've laid a very good foundation for this preseason.

"There might be a little surprise here. But right now we're focusing on getting in shape, getting ready for the season."