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If he was tired from the 4 a.m. wake-up call that led to the two-and-a-half hour train ride that led to an 11-hour flight from Amsterdam to snow-coated Salt Lake City, Real Salt Lake's newest Designated Player didn't show it.
Not one bit.
Instead, Albert Rusnák spoke candidly with RSL general manager Craig Waibel and introduced himself to the dozen or so club staffers who waited for his arrival inside the international terminal at Salt Lake City airport Thursday afternoon. When informed there were a sprinkling of fans who braved the elements, he thanked them kindly for coming and posed for photos.
The 22-year-old Slovakian attacking midfielder embraced his first hour in Utah the way the club and its fan base hope he does his on the grass at Rio Tinto Stadium for years to come.
Rusnák is expected to be introduced formally at a press conference Friday morning in Sandy as both the present and future of the RSL attack. While the deal is expected to be finalized Friday, Waibel said Rusnák's contract at RSL will be a multiyear agreement.
With a new RSL scarf draped around his neck, Rusnák wasn't shy in explaining his move from Dutch club FC Groningen which reported the transfer agreement with RSL was finished on Tuesday to Major League Soccer. The former Manchester City youth product said it was simple: He wanted to go to a club that wanted him. And RSL showed it badly, he said. Rusnák said he spoke often with Waibel and coach Jeff Cassar.
"The biggest key factor why I chose Real Salt Lake was the interest that they showed," he said. "In the end, that's what decided it. I felt like this club wants me the most. I always want to play for the club where I'm going to feel good, where people want me and that's what decided it."
So there's a new No. 10 in town after the incumbent for a decade, Javier Morales, saw his run at RSL end at the conclusion of the 2016 campaign. Rusnák, not 10 minutes after exiting customs at the airport, explained he knows he has sizable boots to fill.
"Always in football, you're going to come into a position where there was another player, so I don't put pressure on myself because there was a player who played there for 10 years," he said. "With all due respect, he's probably one of the club's legends and in the whole MLS. It won't be easy, but I believe in my qualities and hopefully I will show it from Day 1."
After making contact with FC Groningen, conversations were swift and productive, according to Waibel who sold Rusnák on the club and Major League Soccer in less than two weeks.
"Every deal is different, every player is different, but the big thing here is we want him to play attacking mid," Waibel said. "It's a new challenge and it's the right time for him. With every player, timing is everything. The opportunity is important, but with him, the conversations were mostly about his opportunities."
According to a bevy of reports, Rusnák wasn't lacking in that department. Clubs such as Swansea City, Watford and AS Roma were rumored to be in pursuit of the Slovakian international who scored 12 goals in 76 appearances with FC Groningen. Rusnák's pair of goals helped Groningen win the KNVB Cup final last May, which the club celebrated on social media Thursday while he was in the air bound for Salt Lake City.
"I think it's awesome that we've attracted a young attacking player from Europe," Waibel said. "We haven't been able to do something like this yet. It's a bit unique, and we're very proud of that and at the same time, I hope it doesn't stand as a one-off."
Before being whisked off to a transportation van with Waibel and other team officials to get a wintry view of his new hometown, Rusnák was asked if he'd thought of what number he'd like to wear on the back of his RSL jersey.
"To be honest with you, I don't know which numbers is available," he said. "If No. 11 is available, then I'll take that."
A very familiar number for RSL one that produced highlight after highlight for a decade.
About Albert Rusnák
Position » Attacking midfielder
Age » 22
Acquired » Deal expected to be finalized Friday with RSL
Club history » Real Salt Lake (2017), FC Groningen (2015-2016), SC Cambuur (2014), Birmingham City (2014), Oldham Athletic (2014), Manchester City (2013-2015)
Stats » 12 goals in 76 appearances at FC Groningen, including two in KNVB Final