Real Salt Lake triggers the option to buy Jefferson Savarino

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) l-r Real Salt Lake head coach Mike Petke welcomes Jefferson Savarino to the team along with general manager Craig Waibel. Real Salt Lake has exercised the purchase option on the 20-year-old winger following his performance this season on loan from Zulia FC in Venezuela. Savarino, 20, now on a permanent contract, will remain a young designated player for RSL.

Sandy • Jefferson Savarino lightly set down the microphone as Real Salt Lake assistant coach Freddy Juarez translated the winger’s thank-yous to God, the team, his family and everyone gathered at Rio Tinto Stadium on Thursday to hear the announcement that RSL had exercised the purchase option attached to Savarino’s loan.

Juarez finished the translation and asked Savarino if there was anything else he’d like to say.

Savarino smiled and shrugged, swinging the microphone around a couple times before putting it up to his mouth again.

“Jefferson does all his talking on the field,” RSL coach Mike Petke said. “So he’s definitely not one for sitting up here and having the cameras on him. And that’s one of the big things I respect about him.”

That is also one of the reasons RSL brought Savarino under a multi-year permanent contract. Locking down Savarino, the 20-year-old winger on loan from Venezuelan club Zulia FC, was an important step for RSL as it tries to retain its young core for the upcoming years. Savarino will remain a young designated player. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“I’m happy, it’s one of the many dreams I have,” Savarino said through a translator. “I’ve now completed one of them.”

The move came as no surprise.

Savarino finished the MLS season with six goals (one short of tying four of his teammates for the team high) and five assists (knotted with fellow winger Joao Plata for second most on the team). The Venezuelan international achieved those marks in just 22 league appearances.

Petke said he and his coaching staff could see how well Savarino fit into the attacking four right away.

“We just kind of turned to each other and said, ’Do you see the dynamic between him and Albert [Rusnák] and him and [Joao] Plata and him and Luis [Silva]?’” Petke said.

Savarino made his Real Salt Lake debut May 13, coming off the bench at New England, and started all but three RSL league matches since. The club went 10-5-4 with him in the starting lineup.

Real Salt Lake led the league in shots (548) but only 14th in goals (49).

Savarino’s aggressive nature, which RSL general manager Craig Waibel said stood out to him even two years ago when Waibel began keeping tabs on him, served him well in Petke’s system.

“When he got the ball, he was thinking about the goal,” Waibel said about Savarino at age 18. “It’s something that seems so simple, but not every player does that. Even not every attacking player thinks about the goal first. It’s a mentality that we understand needs to be possessed by our wings.”

It wasn’t like MLS always had been in his plan, Savarino told The Tribune. He hadn’t known much about the league growing up.

“It was God’s will for me to be here,” he said through a translator. “That’s the route I took, and I’m at an age where there’s a lot to continue to learn and grow, and this is a league that’s going to help me continue to grow.”

Savarino also made his Venezuela senior national team debut this season. He appeared in his home country’s friendly with the United States on June 3, which ended in a 1-1 draw. Venezuela then called in Savarino for its final four World Cup qualifying matches, but he missed the two October games with an ankle sprain.