ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Stateside observers may not know much about fresh Real Salt Lake catch Albert Rusnak, so we are here to help introduce the young Slovakian attacker that signed as a Young Designated Player on Friday.
Who is he?
The 22-year-old is a coach's son with great technical skills that can play anywhere in attacking midfield. As has been the case with many great offensive players, Rasnak's career took off after making a move to the Dutch Eredivisie, where notched 16 goals and 15 assists in 94 games for Cambuur and Groningen. Not long after arriving to the latter side in 2015, he scored twice to earn their first KNVB Cup triumph.
Rusnak got a very early start in the youth ranks of Slovakian side Kosice, and then was snapped up by Manchester City's academy at the age of 16. He spent time on loan with Oldham and Birmingham City (where he was briefly a teammate of US defender Jonathan Spector), but never managed a first-team appearance with Man City. In the summer of 2014, he was loaned to Dutch side Cambuur and then he quickly earned a transfer to Groningen. Before joining RSL, he was also linked with the likes of AS Roma, Swansea City and Watford.
The new RSL playmaker has just about every attacking skill one could want in a midfielder. He loves to play combos in the middle and take on defenders from wide positions. Rusnak is also a fine striker of the ball and hits an accurate restart serve. Unsurprisingly, he left quite an impression on Eredivisie observers.
"[Albert is a] very technical player, he can be a game-changer," former Cambuur technical director Alex Pama told MLSsoccer.com. He's a very good pickup for MLS."
Pama pinpointed Rusnak's quickness and ball-handling at pace as his best attributes.
"He sees solutions fast," said Pama, who now runs player development camps in the Atlanta area. "He can score as a midfielder, but is also a smart player that can set teammates up."
As could be expected, Rusnak is not exactly known for his defensive work. He also tended to shrink when the play became overly physical during his days in England. Of course, that was back when he was a green teenager, and times change.
Though he's often been used as a winger, Rusnak is ideally suited to work as a No. 10 with the freedom to roam around the final third.
As one who likes to wheel and deal at pace, Rusnak should greatly enjoy running with Yura Movsisyan and Joao Plata, who co-led the team with nine goals last season. Given his versatility in attack, the youngster can replace some qualities offered by both Juan Manuel "Burrito" Martinez and Javier Morales, without being an exact facsimile of either departed player.
If he is fit the entire season, Rusnak should be able to push double figures in both goals and assists. In addition, he has the mettle to become as important a presence in the clubhouse as he is on the field.
"[He has a] great personality that could turn him in one of the team leaders, even in his young age," said Michal Mravec, a fellow Slovakian player who went to college in America.