It’s official: Albert Rusnák is the newest Designated Player signing for Seattle Sounders FC.
An established, top tier attacking midfielder in Major League Soccer, Rusnák’s decision to join the Rave Green immediately bolsters a Sounders side that picked up 60 points in 2021 despite numerous injuries to key players.
Here are five reasons to be excited now that #RusnakWatch has ended.
In the era of COVID, every team has been severely impacted in its ability to fully scout players abroad, increasing the likelihood that a massive DP investment could fall short.
Rusnák, on the other hand, should be able to hit the ground running. He comes to the Sounders boasting a resume in MLS that puts him firmly in the conversation of the league’s most prolific attacking midfielders. At 27 years old, the Slovakian playmaker is in the prime of his career and has already posted 41 goals and 39 assists from 140 regular season appearances.
Supercharging the Attack
The Sounders finished the 2021 MLS regular season tied for the best defense in the league, conceding just 33 goals from 34 matches as the Rave Green finished second in the Western Conference and third in the Supporters’ Shield standings. Coupled with the return to health of 2020 MLS MVP finalists Jordan Morris and Nicolás Lodeiro, Rusnák’s addition could propel the Sounders attack to new heights in 2022.
Operating predominantly as a central attacking midfielder, Rusnák has been in the top 12 for key passes across MLS in four of his five seasons, including finishing in the top five in 2017 and 2021. Rusnák has also demonstrated an ability to score from distance – he notched 11 goals from outside the box with RSL – which will help unlock teams that bunker in defensively.
Rusnák is coming off arguably his best season in MLS. In 2021, he finished eighth in the league in expected assists (7.2), fourth in shot-creating actions (149) and tenth in goal-creating actions (16). The prospect of Rusnák, Lodeiro and João Paulo serving up chances for guys like Raúl Ruidíaz, Cristian Roldan and Morris should be extremely exciting.
One of the key storylines from 2021 was how the team managed plenty of absences to key players due to injury and international absences. Often fielding a shorthanded roster created ample opportunities for young players like Josh Atencio and Danny Leyva to grow into significant First Team contributors.
The Sounders are essentially adding two DP-level players to the roster for this season as Morris and Lodeiro return from missing most of the previous campaign. Mix in an elite attacking player in Rusnák with the signings of exciting youngsters like Sam Adeniran and Obed Vargas and the Sounders should have the depth to compete on multiple fronts.
Rusnák can play multiple positions on the pitch, and Head Coach Brian Schmetzer will likely utilize that ability throughout the course of a long season. A nominal No. 10, Rusnák is more than comfortable lining up out wide or sitting under a No. 9. What this does is allow Schmetzer and the coaching staff to adjust their formations and personnel accordingly, both by match and in-match. It’s conceivable that Rusnák could line up as a wide playmaker in a 4-2-3-1, an attacking midfielder in a 3-4-2-1 or a second striker in a 4-4-2. He gives the Sounders options for any scenario.
Strengthening for High Stakes 2022 Season
Seattle’s early exit from the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs last season left the players and technical staff disappointed, despite the many historic accomplishments of the group during the regular season.
With four trophies on the line in 2022 – Concacaf Champions League, U.S. Open Cup, Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup – adding a player of Rusnák’s pedigree to an already impressive roster will allow the Sounders to compete across all competitions.