HERRIMAN, Utah – Jefferson Savarino is a man of faith, and believes each player has a God-given gift, some talent that is unique to them.
“I think that every player has his secret and sometimes when things do not work out as a group, that's when an individual player needs to use what God has given them,” the Real Salt Lake winger and potential MLSsoccer.com 22 Under 22 honoree explained.
For Savarino, that might mean evading four defenders with the flick of ankle, or serving an inch-perfect through ball to a teammate, or curling a pinpoint cross to the far post.
“I just think it’s whatever I am able to produce, and that sometimes means I am able to give an assist, or sometimes go one vs. one and score a goal. I think it depends on what type of play is made,” he said.
Coming from some players, that might sound cocky, but Savarino he knows that he has enormous talent, and recognizes that making the most of it requires hard work in the service of his team.
“The talent comes from [God] and next is the work that you do here on the field,” he said.
Teammates, coaches and fans see almost limitless potential in the 21-year-old, who has performed well since his first day at RSL. Captain Kyle Beckerman has been impressed with Savarino ever since he arrived in Utah in May 2017 and continues to be amazed.
“It’s amazing how young he is and some of the stuff he does. You can see when he gets in the zone it doesn’t matter what they try and do. He’s going to get out of it. When I see that look in his eyes I just let him go. He’s better than he was last year and last year he was great,” Beckerman said.
“There’s no ceiling for him.”
The potential of youth often looks promising, but Savarino is already fulfilling expectations. He believes he has a lot left to learn, that even a good performance could have been better and a great performance is still missing something.
“The truth is I still think in the next match that I need to continue to learn much more,” Savarino said. “I think that a player always has to improve in everything, both in the training and in the matches. If I were to tell you that I am already perfect, I am not, because I have to learn something every day. At practice my teammates are great players and since I am young, I will still be able to continue learning throughout my career.”
One day he might pick up a lesson from Beckerman; the next, Joao Plata. On another occasion he learns something new from Brooks Lennon or Sebastian Saucedo, and gets to pick Luis Silva’s brain the next.
Even with a young team, RSL have players who have played in Liga MX, Spain’s La Liga and the English Premier League. Then you have the combined experience of Mike Petke and his coaching staff.
While he’s still getting used to MLS – and there’s plenty out there for Savarino still to learn – his progress this season has been significant, giving him an added comfort level in games.
“I am learning a lot more about the league and I hope to continue to learn much more,” Savarino said. “Each day when I come to train I have the same availability and strength to continue learning. I think that has helped me a lot to learn something from both the coaches and my teammates every day.”
Coping with the extra attention defenses are giving him has been no easy task: Petke calls him “one of the most fouled players in the league.”
Learning how to avoid or take on contact and still creating space and danger is a skill you’d probably associate with a veteran, but learning it at 21 is already paying dividends for Savarino.
And that God-given ability keeps his teammates – and spectators – excited.
“He’s an awesome player,” Beckerman said. “He’s really fun to play with, and for the fans he’s great to watch.”