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Real Salt Lake: Newly acquired Savarino makes a solid first impression at home

Published May 18, 2017 9:33 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Sandy • One question Craig Waibel always faces when delving into a new signing is just how quickly Real Salt Lake can get that player up to speed. The RSL general manager wasn't all that fazed when answering in regards to 20-year-old forward Jefferson Savarino.

"First things first," Waibel joked, "learn how to breathe at the top of the mountain and run."

The Venezuelan striker, acquired on a season-long loan last week, undoubtedly passed the first test, which came in a swirling mid-May snowstorm, no less.

Savarino made his first start at RSL in the 2-1 win over New York City FC on Wednesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, and the kid made quite the impact. Featured as a wide forward in RSL's 4-3-3 formation, Savarino was fearless in taking on defenders in 1-on-1 situations.

"For me, he just goes," RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. "He doesn't think about anything. You know he is confident in himself. He is a player that right away all the guys around him got confidence in him and wanted to give him the ball."

That confidence on the ball set up RSL's equalizer in the 38th minute. Savarino put a wicked cutback on NYCFC's Thomas McNamara, leaving the midfielder spun around like a top just outside the box. Savarino picked up his head and found an unmarked Albert Rusnák, whose left-footed shot from distance knotted the score. It was just a glimpse of what RSL coaches and front office minds have been discussing since finalizing the loan deal from Venezuelan club Zulia FC.

Savarino snagged a crucial assist, earned several corner kicks and was the most-fouled player Wednesday night, being dragged down by NYCFC defenders four times, in his first start at RSL.

"His creativity and just his instincts" stood out, RSL coach Mike Petke said. "He doesn't really know how we want him to play right now. You could just see his instincts.You could see that he's played at a high level. You could see he's comfortable on the ball."

Should RSL build off its first win in a month — three points that snapped a four-game losing streak — it will need Savarino to continue his seamless transition. Before arriving in the United States on May 7, Savarino was producing at Zulia FC in his hometown of Maracaibo in Venezuela. He arrived with a bit of jet lag but in good shape to step in right away and produce.

Savarino had 22 goals and 12 assists in 48 career matches at Zulia FC before arriving at RSL.

"He's a different player than what we got," Rusnák said.

So far, that's good.

Even in RSL's 4-0 loss at New England last Saturday, Savarino was easily the bright spot of the night after making his club debut and making some dangerous moves toward the Revolution goal. That first impression was a highlight in an otherwise forgettable night, but the debut in Sandy raised the level of expectation for another young attacking player who will be counted on as the year wears on.

"I think this kid could be a special player," Petke said. "But a lot of that comes down to me and the coaching staff getting him engrained quickly into how we want him to play."


Twitter: @chriskamrani —

Real Salt Lake at Seattle Sounders

Kickoff • 3 p.m., Saturday

Where • CenturyLink Field







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