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RSL’s Albert Rusnák crushed he’s not with the Slovakian team, but promises he’ll turn it into a positive

Struggling star midfielder vows to take the rejection and use it as a spark for the rest of the MLS season. ‘Things are going to turn around. There’s no doubt in my mind,’ he says.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Real Salt Lake midfielder Albert Rusnak (11) brings the ball downfield, in MLS soccer action at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Saturday, March 9, 2019.

Albert Rusnák last week received what could be the worst voicemail in his professional soccer career. The message said he didn’t make the final roster for the Slovakian national team that qualified for the European championships.

Rusnák had played significant minutes for the national team and helped it qualify for the Euros. But his exclusion from the team came as a surprise to him and made for a difficult couple of days.

“It would be the biggest disappointment so far in my professional career,” Rusnák said.

But now that’s been more than a week since he found out, Rusnák is trying to put the disappointment behind him and focus on his play with Real Salt Lake. In the six games before the international break, he recorded just one shot on goal despite playing every possible minute but one.

Rusnák said he’s looking to turn things around and is confident he will do so sooner rather than later.

“I set a certain standard in the games and certain numbers in terms of goals and assists that I’ve been involved in since my first year here,” Rusnák said. “So yeah, maybe it’s a little dip in form and dip in terms of the statistics and all that. But … there’s no doubt in my mind. I know and I think everybody knows what I’m capable of.”

RSL VS. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS

At Rio Tinto Stadium

When • Thursday, 8 p.m.

TV • KMYU

RSL coach Freddy Juarez certainly knows Rusnák’s capabilities. That’s why he’s defended the midfielder from his critics and why he chose make him captain of the team. Juarez said the first text message he received from Rusnák after getting left off the Slovakian team read that he was ready to get back and make a difference for RSL.

“When he got back, he was all business — another sign of his maturity and why he’s gotten the captain band for us,” Juarez said.

Many players like using disappointments as motivation to perform better and prove doubters wrong. But when asked if he would do that in this case, Rusnák said he didn’t need to.

“I haven’t reached a point yet where I have no motivation at all, so therefore I don’t think I have to search for the extra motivation,” Rusnák said.

Nonetheless, Rusnák believes he was left off Slovakia’s roster for a reason. And it appears Rusnák still has the same level of confidence he always seems to have.

“I’m a believer in hard work and dedication,” Rusnák said. “Things are going to turn around. There’s no doubt in my mind. Whether that’s with the national team or … here getting the wins and the goals and assists, that’s all going to come.”

Juarez said he expects Rusnák to treat the rest of the RSL season as his own European championship, so to speak.

“Albert is going to have a chip on his shoulder and he is going to push through and we’re there to back him up on any support that he needs,” Juarez said.

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