CARSON, Calif. – Major League Soccer increasingly appears to be the likeliest next stop for Rubio Rubin, but the young forward – a known quantity in American soccer circles since his mid-teens – isn't putting a whole lot of thought into that. Not yet.
Rubin's focus, he says, is entirely on the US national team, the opportunity to show interim coach Dave Sarachan and his staff that he's ready to make a big contribution going forward, and the opportunity to demonstrate that when the Yanks take on Bosnia and Herzegovina in a Jan. 28 friendly at StubHub Center.
Talks between his agent, Lyle Yorks from James Grant Sports Management USA, and MLS are proceeding, Rubin says, but there's also reported interest from Mexico, and he's open to whatever possibilities might arise. Mostly, Rubin wants to play – he hasn't done much of that in Danish and Norwegian stints over the past year – and start showing he can be the player he was tipped to be following a sensational U-20 World Cup performance two-and-a-half years ago.
“I think my main focus now is this camp, and from here we'll see what happens,” Rubin, 21, told MLSsoccer.com following Thursday's training session at StubHub. “Obviously, there's a lot of rumors going around about the MLS, and I'm excited about that, excited about everything. But right now I'm just excited about being in camp and being with the boys.”
Goal.com's Ives Galarcep reported this week that Rubin is close to signing with MLS and that there was interest from four league clubs, including MLS Cup champions Toronto FC and expansion side Los Angeles FC.
Rubin said he had “no idea what's going on” during talks with the league. He'd be subject to allocation, and FC Dallas sits No. 1 on the allocation table after trading center back Walker Zimmerman to LAFC. The new club is No. 11 on the list, and TFC is at the bottom.
Rubin was asked if MLS was where he wanted to be.
“Of course,” he said. “It's a great possibility, a great opportunity. … But my main focus is being here [with the national team]. After that, we'll see what happens. I've been talking to my agent. We're obviously exploring all options and just seeing what's best for me [in terms of] development.
“That's where I am at this point in my career, to find a place where I can develop and move [forward].”
Rubin, who is from Beaverton, Ore., was one of the most promising American teens. He was part of the U-17 residency in Bradenton, Fla., then signed with FC Utrecht when he turned 18. He started strongly with the Dutch club, won his first two US caps in November 2014 and another in March 2015, and then was a breakout star for the US at the 2015 U-20 World Cup in New Zealand. He tallied twice – the lone goal in a round-of-16 win over Colombia included – as the Yanks reached the quarterfinals.
Then he suffered a major injury to his right ankle the following fall, underwent surgery, and missed nearly five months of action. He struggled to regain strength, form and confidence, and last year made two moves, in January to Silkeborg in Denmark and in August to Stabaek in Norway. He saw limited time and became a free agent in November.
“I was aiming to be in the starting lineup [with the Scandinavian clubs], but it didn't work out,” he said. “At the same time, I was working my tail off to get there. I came to both clubs halfway through the season, so it was tough to come in and take a starting sport. I pushed for it, didn't work out.”
Rubin is the only player at the US camp without a club.
“It's been very frustrating [over the past year], but I've been trying to be as positive as possible,” he said. “Looking at it as a learning lesson to make me even hungrier to get where I want to be. [It's been tough] just finding myself again, finding my footwork and being myself and trusting my ability and everything. The confidence and sometimes worrying about your foot, if you're going to twist your ankle because it's not stable enough, not strong enough.”
He's worked diligently to regain strength in the ankle and leg and says he's “now free with no problems” and is “just getting back to where I want to be.” Now it's about finding a place to advance.
“Of course [it would be best to get a deal done quickly], but there's no rush,” Rubin said. “We're in with the US national team. It doesn't get any better than that.”