Bratislava, Slovakia – The midfielder, who was once deemed surplus to requirements at Manchester City, is now enjoying a renaissance stateside having scored 30 goals in 106 appearances for Real Salt Lake City. But how did the enigmatic Albert Rusnák make his way from Košice to the banks of the Great Salt Lake in Utah?
Rusnák’s football career took off when he joined Manchester City’s academy as a teenager in 2010. The move was orchestrated by his father, a Slovak ex-footballer who had his career cruelly ended after breaking both his legs in a car crash.
He joined during an exciting period for the club who had hired Roberto Mancini after being taken over the Abu Dhabi United Group. Unfortunately, Rusnák never broke into the first team and spent three years with the club’s reserve and youth teams. He was eventually loaned out to Oldham Athletic, but after three appearances he was back at City and in urgent need of first team football.
His next loan to Birmingham City looked much more promising when he was put straight into the starting XI for their FA-Cup Fourth Round match. However, after only four appearances, the Slovak was back at City. Already, there was a growing consensus that his technical style of play wasn’t the right fit for the English league which traditionally rewarded a more physical style of play.
It was Dutch manager Henk de Jong who saw his potential and offered him a way out of England and back on the path to success. De Jong was managing Cambuur in the Eredivisie at the time and needed a playmaker that fitted his profile. The Slovak was an immediate success making 17 appearances in his first season, with the club extending his loan.
It wasn’t long before other clubs came sniffing around for the Slovak midfielder. It was FC Groningen that eventually settled on a deal with City, heralding in a hugely successful three season at the club. Rusnák would go on to etch himself into the club’s history book as he scored both goals in the 2014-15 KNVB Cup final against PEC Zwolle.
It was during this period that Slovakia‘s National team called up Albert Rusnák. Again, he was an immediate success going on to make 28 appearances and scoring 5 goals.
It was at Real Salt Lake that the midfielder was really able to show his full potential. He moved in 2017 and recorded one of the highest assist rates in his debut season. The team missed the playoffs by only a point and enjoying an unbeaten 14 match streak.
He then went on to record over 10 goals in both his second and third seasons. In 2020, Major League Soccer (MLS) voted him among the league’s top 50 players. Real Salt Lake were eliminated from the playoff place in 2020 after a disappointing season. Online sportsbooks have the Seattle Sounders as favorites to win the MLS Cup 2021, which is due to start in late February.
Main photo credit: Major League Soccer (MLS)
By Nick Allen