TRANSFER TRACKER STATUS: Signing

Seattle Sounders FC have signed midfielder Albert Rusnak as a Designated Player through the 2023 MLS season with an option for 2024, the club announced Thursday.

Rusnak joins as a highly-coveted free agent, one who spent the last five seasons with Real Salt Lake. In 2021, the Slovakian international tallied 11 goals and 11 assists in 34 games while captaining RSL.

“We are very excited to welcome such a quality player like Albert to Seattle,” Seattle general manager & president of soccer Garth Lagerwey said in a release. “At 27, he is in the prime of his career and already knows our league very well. We’re confident his addition puts our roster in a very good position to succeed in 2022.”

Rusnak joins Seattle as a DP alongside midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro and striker Raúl Ruidíaz. Central midfielder Joao Paulo, a Best XI selection last year, was a DP the last two seasons through is now eligible to count on the roster as a TAM (Targeted Allocation Money) player.

“I am very pleased to add a player of Albert’s caliber to our roster,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said in a release. “For years, he has been one of the more difficult players we’ve had to face, so I’m more than happy we get to welcome him to our team as preseason camp begins.”

During his five years with RSL, Rusnák totaled 41 goals and 39 assists in 140 regular-season appearances (135 starts). Seattle VP of soccer operations and sporting director Craig Waibel originally brought Rusnak to MLS in January 2017 from Eredivisie side FC Groningen.

With Slovakia, Rusnak has seven goals in 34 career appearances.

“Albert is a dynamic playmaker with a proven track record of success, both here and abroad,” Waibel said in a release. “After bringing him to MLS in 2017 and observing his play over the past five years in Utah, we’re confident that his leadership and consistency will be valuable assets to our team going forward.”

Seattle, MLS Cup champions in 2016 and 2019, finished third in the Supporters’ Shield standings last year (60 points) while dealing with persistent injuries to key players. They fell to Rusnak’s RSL in Round One of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, though he missed the game after a positive COVID-19 test.

In 2022, Seattle open their Concacaf Champions League campaign with a Round of 16 match against FC Motagua (Honduras) on Feb. 17. Their league slate starts Feb. 27 when hosting Nashville SC.