Seattle Sounders sign former Real Salt Lake captain Albert Rusnák as designated player

The Slovakian midfielder departs RSL after five seasons with the Major League Soccer club

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Real Salt Lake midfielder Albert Rusnak (11) gets past Houston Dynamo midfielder Darwin Ceren (24), in MLS action between Real Salt Lake and Houston Dynamo, at Rio Tinto Stadium, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019.

Seattle • The Seattle Sounders added a key piece to their midfield for the upcoming season on Thursday after signing Albert Rusnák to a designated player contract.

The Slovakian midfielder spent the past five seasons with Real Salt Lake, where he had 41 goals and 39 assists in 140 regular season appearances. Rusnák’s contract covers the 2022 and 2023 seasons with a club option for 2024. Rusnák was a free agent.

“At 27, he is in the prime of his career and already knows our league very well,” Seattle general manager Garth Lagerwey said in a statement. “We’re confident his addition puts our roster in a very good position to succeed in 2022.”

Rusnák joined Major League Soccer after three seasons with FC Groningen in the top league in the Netherlands. Rusnak posted three seasons with double-digit goals scored with RSL, including last season with a career-high 11 goals. He’s also shown an ability to be a playmaker and create opportunities for teammates. Rusnák had 12 assists in his first season with RSL and seven last year.

Rusnák will join Raúl Ruidiaz and Nicolás Lodeiro as designated players on Seattle’s roster. Midfielder João Paulo had occupied a designated player slot on Seattle’s roster the past two seasons, but for the 2022 season will hold a roster spot using targeted allocation money.

“For years, he has been one of the more difficult players we’ve had to face, so I’m more than happy we get to welcome him to our team,” coach Brian Schmetzer said.

Seattle opens training camp on Friday. The Sounders begin play in the CONCACAF Champions League on Feb. 17 and open the MLS regular season on Feb. 27 at home against Nashville.