I think this kid could be a special player. But a lot of that comes down to me and the coaching staff getting him engrained quickly into how we want him to play. —RSL coach Mike Petke
SANDY — Just nine days after arriving at his new club on loan, 20-year-old Venezuelan Jefferson Savarino found himself in the starting lineup Wednesday night for Real Salt Lake.
He definitely did not disappoint.
The dynamic young winger wasn’t afraid to take on multiple New York City FC defenders and did so often throughout the 2-1 victory. His technical quickly gained him respect from NYCFC defenders.
Late in the first half, he was double-teamed near the edge of the penalty area, but escaped quickly with a cutback move toward the middle of the field and then a quick pass to an unmarked Albert Rusnak, who tied the game with a shot from distance.
Had Savarino not made such a strong initial impression, he might not have seen such a quick double team, and then Rusnak wouldn’t have been open.
“He’s a different player than what we got. He’s different than I am, or than Joao (Plata) is, or than any of our attacking players. I guess it’s good to have a little bit of a combination and he did very well for his first game,” said Rusnak.
New players are always met with cautious optimism, but Savarino passed the eye test from his teammates in less than a half.
“He is a player that right away all the guys around him got confidence in him, and wanted to give him the ball. (In the) second half that was one of the things that we said was to let him get the ball and go at these players. I thought he was clever today, I thought he was great and put his back into troubled situations. It gives us another attacking option going forward that these teams have to think about,” said Nick Rimando.
Rusnak proved to be very good in tight spaces and with his combination play, but just as much was his fight to win the ball back whenever he lost it.
Savarino was acquired on loan May 9 from Zulia FC in Venezuela. He was signed to a young designated player contract. He’s scored 22 goals and recorded 12 assists in 48 matches in the Venezuelan First Division, and he arrives in great form as his previous league is nearing the end of its season.
With Brooks Lennon and Sebastian Saucedo away with the Under-20 U.S. National Team at the Under-20 World Cup for roughly the next month, Savarino will get plenty more opportunities to acclimate to his new teammates.
“His creativity and just his instincts (stood out). 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,” said RSL coach Mike Petke. “He must have been the most fouled player tonight, I would assume. Just like Albert (Rusnak) and perhaps more. I think this kid could be a special player. But a lot of that comes down to me and the coaching staff getting him engrained quickly into how we want him to play.”
So far so good — one start, one assist.