Real Salt Lake for years has searched for a forward with dynamic goal-scoring and playmaking. It didn’t work with Alfredo Ortuño. It didn’t work with Yura Movsisyan. Due to injuries, it so far hasn’t worked with Sam Johnson.
But it just might work with Giuseppe Rossi, whose resume, as general manager Elliot Fall put it, speaks for itself.
Real Salt Lake announced Rossi’s signing on Thursday. He’s a player with significant experience in Europe for teams like Manchester United, Newcastle and Genoa. He’s played in the Premier League, Seria A and La Liga.
But for some time, the New Jersey native has tried to find a way back stateside considering the point he is at in his career.
“I am 33 years old. I’ve always had the desire to come back to the U.S. and play," Rossi told The Salt Lake Tribune. “It was that time when I thought it would have been the right move.”
RSL AT ORLANDO CITY
When • Saturday, 4 p.m. MST
TV • KMYU
RSL brought Rossi along for almost the entire preseason. He arrived in Phoenix, traveled back to Utah, then to Tucson and back to Utah, all while the club and he were negotiating terms on a contract. Fall told The Tribune that Rossi won’t take up a designated player spot and the signing didn’t incorporate any targeted allocation money.
In the minutes he did play during the team’s three official preseason games, he showed glimpses of what he can bring to RSL’s attack. Fall said what he noticed most, however, was how quickly Rossi integrated himself with the team.
“Giuseppe really impressed us from Day 1," Fall said. “We all know he’s a really good soccer player and that he has special abilities. But what he brought that ... is on top of that is he came in and he fit in with the group immediately.”
Fall said Rossi spent time with the younger players on the roster, playing two-touch after training. He got to know the players, went out to dinners with them. It was a box Fall was able to check early in the evaluation process.
Rossi joins a veteran attacking core that includes recently signed forward Justin Meram, Corey Baird, Sam Johnson, Albert Rusnák and Damir Kreilach. But Rossi’s technical ability could exceed all those players, even at 33.
In addition to all this experience for clubs overseas, Rossi also has 30 appearances for the Italian national team. In all, Rossi has scored 135 goals for club and country. He also won the Golden Boot in the 2008 Olympics.
The move may come with a bit of risk due to Rossi’s age and extended injury history. He’s had several significant knee injuries throughout his career, needing four knee surgeries between 2011 and 2014, per the Associated Press. He also hasn’t played professional soccer in almost two years before signing with RSL.
But Rossi has been there, done that, he said. He’s come back from injures and still contributed significantly to teams. Even when he was training with other teams overseas and was still without a contract, he had no doubts. And he has the utmost confidence he’ll be able to contribute to RSL.
“I know that in whatever situation or whatever team would want me, I know that I could give and what I could produce for them,” Rossi said.
Rossi was in danger of being temporarily expelled from soccer in 2018. He tested positive for a banned substance, but a judge ruled against a one-year ban.
Shorty after Rossi arrived to preseason with RSL, Juarez said he needed to see the former Italy player fit before he could really assess how he could help the club. Now that it appears he’s seen enough, Juarez is anxious to get him into the fold.
“It’s amazing to have a player of his skills in and around the guys,” Juarez said in a statement. “It’s a guy that can change the game at any given moment and he’s seen it all and done it all so he gives the team confidence. Beyond his skills, he takes the time to talk and spend time with the young guys. It goes a long way when your peers can lead you and hold high standards.”
After the 16 years he’s had in professional soccer, Rossi is not thinking too far ahead regarding how long the remainder of his career might last. But after a long hiatus, he’s itching to get back on the field.
“I’ve been waiting for the right moment. I’ve been waiting for the right team,” Rossi said. “I’ve waited enough and I’m just ready to go.”