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Ravell Call, Deseret News
Real Salt Lake midfielder Albert Rusnak (11) scores on a penalty kick against FC Dallas during MLS soccer in Sandy on Saturday, July 7, 2018.

SANDY —Real Salt Lake made a splash with some post-Christmas news on Friday by announcing new multiyear contracts signed with general manager Craig Waibel and attacking midfielder Albert Rusnak.

Rusnak’s deal is a great belated Christmas gift for fans as it keeps him with the club through the 2021 season. He hinted toward the end of last season that the contract would eventually get done, and now it’s official.

“I wanted to stay with Real Salt Lake because this is the perfect place to continue to develop as a player. I enjoy working with Mike Petke and want to thank him, Craig Waibel and Dell Loy Hansen for their support and belief in me,” Rusnak said in a press release. “I have really enjoyed playing for Real Salt Lake the last two years and I am now looking forward to us competing and bringing an MLS Cup back to the fans who have given me and my teammates unbelievable support.”

Rusnak has recorded 17 goals and 21 assists in 61 matches for Real Salt Lake over the past two seasons. Retaining the midfielder, 24, was one of the biggest priorities this offseason for Waibel.

Acquiring Rusnak two years ago was one of the marquee signings for Waibel during his first 3½ years as RSL’s general manager. Waibel said there have been inevitable hits and misses with his player signings, but he’s honored that owner Dell Loy Hansen likes the direction he’s leading the club and from the first team down to the academy.

“I’m really happy about it. Obviously I want to thank Mr. Hansen because his belief in what we’ve been doing over the last four years obviously translate into a new contract for me. We’ve been very steadfast in our structure and our belief,” Waibel said.

" The view going forward is to pick up a couple of key pieces. We need to bring in leadership at this point, we have a great young core on this roster. "
Real Salt Lake general manager Craig Waibel

He’s very excited about the direction the team is heading after a strong showing in the MLS playoffs.

“Overall, the big picture is the team is full of great people, great character, and we saw that at LAFC and we saw that in the series against Kansas City and we continue to build off that, and continue to express our vision of bringing players in,” Waibel said.

During his tenure, the biggest misses for Waibel have been the signings of forwards Yura Movsisyan and Alfredo Ortuno. Neither emerged as the double-digit goal scorer the organization hoped, and Ortuno fizzled out in just a couple months and was one of the biggest busts in franchise history.

Waibel said unfortunately those two misses were at the same positions, and said this year “that’s something we’ve got to get right.”

RSL opens the season on March 3, and between now and then Waibel said he expects to make several veteran additions to the squad.

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“The view going forward is to pick up a couple of key pieces. We need to bring in leadership at this point, we have a great young core on this roster. You’ll see a shift in the players we’re looking to bring in this offseason, guys that are a bit more experienced, guys that will bring immediate impact and leadership into this locker room and complement the guys that we have,” Waibel said.

The priority will be to sign a quality striker, but Waibel joked that RSL and 90 percent of the world are also looking for those players.

“We’re a team that needs to find the right guy, the right fit and make sure it fits into our financial model,” Waibel said.

Waibel understands the challenges of working for a small-market club, and RSL’s owner believes he’s the right person to continue to lead the team on its current trajectory with a strong core of young players.