There is so much more of an upside and that’s something that I’m really looking forward to. —Mike Petke
SANDY — Real Salt Lake announced the no-brainer move of the offseason on Thursday afternoon.
The club exercised the purchase option on Jefferson Savarino’s loan from Zulia FC in his home country of Venezuela and signed him to a multi-year contract.
“No hesitation from the owner on this, and rightfully so,” said RSL general manager Craig Waibel.
Savarino recorded six goals and five assists after joining Real Salt Lake on loan on May 13, and the team posted a 10-5-4 record in his 19 starts.
“We couldn’t be more excited. When Jefferson came obviously there’s a transition phase that we all expect that could take some time. With Jefferson it took about three days. He fit right into the locker room, he fit right into the way we play, he added a dynamic option for the coaching staff,” said Waibel.
Savarino’s loan to RSL came with a pre-negotiated loan buyout price and a predetermined contract, making the announcement at Rio Tinto Stadium a mere formality after Savarino expressed a desire to remain in Utah.
“Grateful, happy, first of all to God, and then the directors, owners and coaching staff,” said Savarino through a translator. “I’m happy that it was able to get done. My family’s been very happy here. I’m enjoying it.”
Signing Savarino is the first of what Waibel hopes will be several announcements in the coming weeks as he looks to re-sign the core of the players from last year who are out of contract. That list includes players like Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando and Brooks Lennon.
Savarino’s signing was as important as any of the others with regards to how coach Mike Petke wants his team to attack quickly.
“There is so much more of an upside and that’s something that I’m really looking forward to,” said Petke.
Savarino wowed RSL fans in his first season with the club in 2017 with his willingness to take on defenders, but do it with a purpose that led to tangible results on the scoreboard.
“Not every attacking player thinks about the goal first, it’s a mentality that we understand needs to be possessed by our wings,” said Waibel. “Specific to Jefferson was the consistency at which he attacked the defender, beat the defender and showed danger to goal whether it be through shot or quality crosses, quality passes. And ultimately that’s what drew us toward him.”
Within Savarino’s first few practices with RSL back in May, Petke noticed his immediate connection on the field with other attacking players like Albert Rusnak and Joao Plata. The bond and familiarity grew stronger as the season went on, and Petke expressed an excitement to get everyone back to work in January for the start of the preseason.