Real Salt Lake will decide in the upcoming months if Jefferson Savarino and Brooks Lennon have a future with the team.
The young talents are on loan for the 2017 season, Savarino from Venezuelan club Zulia FC and Lennon from Liverpool. Savarino’s deal included a pre-negotiated (and undisclosed) purchase price, but Lennon’s did not. Real Salt Lake has entered negotiations with Lennon and his representation, RSL general manager Craig Waibel told The Tribune.
“By the end of the season I hope to have an answer,” he said.
Savarino, who had interest from several clubs at the time of his acquisition, likely won’t come cheap for Real Salt Lake. However, RSL and Zulia settled on his purchase price prior to his international debut on June 3, meaning his value has increased since the terms of the option to buy were set.
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Savarino has been everything RSL could have hoped for this season, adjusting to MLS quickly to become a vital piece of the Real Salt Lake attack. With Savarino in the mix, RSL has scored 30 goals in its past 13 matches.
“To be honest it was not as easy as it looks,” Savarino said of the adjustment, through a translator last month. “But I give credit and thanks to the coach for the opportunities that he gives me and the minutes that he gives me, and it has helped me to adjust a little bit better. But I still have a lot of work to do.”
The 20-year-old winger has tallied six goals and five assists since RSL acquired him on May 9. That’s second on the team in both categories, a goal behind a three-way tie for RSL’s golden boot race and even with fellow winger Joao Plata in assists.
His youth and compatibility, combined with RSL coach Mike Petke’s style, make the option to buy a promising investment.
Then there’s Lennon, 20, the versatile RSL academy product who has become a regular substitute and the next guy on the depth chart in multiple attacking positions.
“I have a guy like Brooks Lennon who I’m desperately trying to get on the field because he deserves to be on the field,” Petke said after an August training session. “But the positions that he’s playing, that he is the most comfortable in, we have some guys that are playing some of the best soccer in the league, so it’s tough.”
Before the addition of Savarino, and during center midfielder Albert Rusnák’s three-week absence in June for international duty, Lennon regularly played 90 minutes at time.
He then suffered a sprained ankle during training on July 7, hindering his ability to compete for a starting spot. At the same time, Savarino and Plata took off, combining for eight goals and six assists since the July international break.
Even without claiming a regular starting spot, Lennon has carved a role for himself on RSL. He averaged 19 minutes in his past nine appearances off the bench. He also made two starts in the past month due to a scheduled rest for Plata and Luis Silva’s groin injury.
Ahead of his loan to RSL, Lennon mostly played with Liverpool’s U-23 team.