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Portland, Ore. • It's Super Bowl Sunday, and Yura Movsisyan takes a mental snapshot, one he vows he'll never allow himself to forget:

The snow-capped peaks of the Wasatch Mountain range are shining through the windows and a fireplace is breathing heat into his home in the Salt Lake Valley as the biggest American sporting event of each calendar year plays out before Movsisyan and his family. He is at peace.

"It's just the best feeling in the world to actually have a home," said the Real Salt Lake striker. "Not a house to live in, but actually have a home."

A little over a year since Movsisyan returned to RSL on loan from Russian club Spartak Moscow, life is, as he puts it candidly, "a dream."

Every day, his wife Marianna still sends him text messages with elation over the new house, of the comfort zone they sought rediscovered again in Utah.

"The only thing I dream of now is to stay healthy and win games as a team, win games as a club," he said. "To put RSL where it belongs."

To the 29-year-old, that's at the top. Not near the top. But above the rest, looking down on the 21 other clubs in Major League Soccer come Christmas time.

Seven years ago, he played a major role in the club hoisting the MLS Cup trophy before spurning what he describes as "a lot of money" to stay at RSL. He wanted something new. He wanted a European challenge, one that he got signing with Randers FC in Denmark and later with with Russian giant Spartak Moscow.

"If I set my mind to one thing, I'll get it done," he said. "No matter what it is in this world, there's nothing I cannot reach."

Many reasons to smile

The 2016 campaign ended bitterly for RSL, a two-month fade that still eats at Movsisyan. Because of the eight-game winless streak, because of the first-round postseason exit, because of the lingering heel contusion that wouldn't improve.

Late October couldn't have been a bigger contrast with where both he and the club were two months prior. The day the initial agreement between RSL and Spartak Moscow to secure Movsisyan's long-term future in Utah was finalized, he received a call from his agent, Patrick McCabe. The joke was this: A couple of goals that night against rival Colorado would only make the day sweeter.

Turns out, two goals from Movsisyan propelled RSL by the Rapids 2-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium — RSL's last win of 2016. The uncertainty of the year-long loan turning into a secured contract at RSL kept Movsisyan up at night throughout last year. He thought of his wife, his kids, his parents and siblings in Southern California.

When you think about what you want to achieve, he said, you think about your legacy. And for Movsisyan, that starts with his family. It started being back with RSL, too.

"You could see me smiling after that," he said. "I have many reasons to smile, but it weighs on you a lot when you're doing possibly the biggest career move, the most important career move for yourself and your family."

The deal is expected to make Movsisyan the highest-paid player in RSL history—- the club and league do not disclose specific financial terms — and it prevented the worst-case scenario he kept circling back to. Stepping on a flight back to Moscow at the end of 2016, trying to convince club officials to let him return to RSL and MLS. It remains "one of the toughest negotiations of my life," he said.

He didn't think Spartak would let him go.

"When you bring back guys like Yura, you have expectations of them, of what they're going to bring of playing ability," RSL general manager Craig Waibel said, "but also what they're going to bring in terms of leadership and locker room."

All of that, Movsisyan said, "comes natural to me."

'You can't have a follower be a leader'

It's a personality thing, Movsisyan said. Some have it. Others don't. Those who do, must utilize it in order to push their teams to reach for what they're stretching for.

That's why Movsisyan, more than any other player on the roster, is a vital bridge to what comes next. As RSL tries to maximize the final years of Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando, a younger core is being constructed to ease the sting when the club's two legends hang them up — whenever that may be.

"You can't have a follower be a leader," Movsisyan said. "If you look at all the guys that have led this team and been the face of a franchise, they're all leaders as people, as human beings."

Some skirt around the spotlight. Movsisyan steps into it, folds his arms and asks for more. A true striker's mentality. He's 29, but has a plethora of experience. From being the underestimated kid out of a junior college in Southern California, to an eventual super-sub at RSL, to a forward who helped a team evade relegation in Denmark to joining one of the richest clubs in the world in Russia.

"We know how excited he is to be here," Waibel said. "Now it's a time to just turn around and take everything over. Yura's personality is kind of cut specifically to this role. He likes being a leader, he likes being counted on — that's what good goal-scorers do."

RSL coach Jeff Cassar believes that 2017 will be a year in which Movsisyan makes a stamp on the club, not only on the field with goal production, but by ensuring that a younger RSL team this season will be directed by a Designated Player striker whose aspirations go beyond smacking balls into the back of the net.

"What I've seen from him is the players respect him," Cassar said. "He's really taken that to heart, that he not only wants to perform and go and score goals, but wants the team to do well, but he also understands that it's a collective unit."

Settled in

The questions continue to follow Movsisyan. Why leave the bright lights of Moscow? Why RSL again? He'll give the answer he keeps on providing: He was ready. Ready to come back, to build on what he achieved overseas, to potentially lead the club that gave him his first true shot at being a somebody in soccer back to heights reached seven long years ago.

He's focused on improving on his nine-goal, three-assist season that was cut short due to the heel injury. And most importantly, he has tried his best to forget about the frustrations of last season.

During the offseason, Movsisyan traveled back home to Armenia to attend his younger brother's wedding. He spent time at his Southern California home, hanging out with his parents and family, where the change of scenery served him well.

The period of change RSL still finds itself in won't be easy, and Movsisyan understands that. He thinks the fans need to realize that, too. Results are the priority, but change is the only guarantee each offseason and Movsisyan said the down years are necessary in order to appreciate the rarity of such magical seasons like 2009.

"You just have to pay for it," he said. "You have to go through the slumps to understand that. At least with us, we know the guys that have been around, we've tasted that victory, we've tasted that transition."

Movsisyan circles back to his legacy at RSL when discussing 2017, goals to be scored, his home in the valley. It's not about Golden Boots, he said. It's about the end, making sure RSL is there in the mix, waiting to potentially shock the league once again.

And it starts with him, his own greatest motivator, which he wouldn't have any other way.

"At the end of the day, when you look in the mirror, you see the wrong picture, you're going to be disappointed," he said, "and I never, ever look in the mirror and see the wrong picture. I always see whoever I need to see."

Twitter: @chriskamrani —

About Yura Movsisyan

Position » Forward

Age » 29

Hometown » Pasadena, Calif.

Locked up » RSL finalized outright purchase from Spartak Moscow with a new multiyear contract.

Résumé » Kansas City Wizards (2006-07), Real Salt Lake (2007-09), Randers FC (2010-11), FC Krasnodar (2011-12), Spartak Moscow (2012-16), RSL (2016-current)

Proven goal-scorer » Had nine goals and three assists in 2016 for RSL. Scored 25 goals in 62 matches in four seasons at Spartak Moscow.