Real Salt Lake fans will soon see a familiar face racing up and down the wing, dribbling in a flurry as he takes defenders one-on-one and tries to create for himself or his teammates.
RSL brought back Jefferson Savarino and signed him this week to a four-year guaranteed contract as a designated player. He left the club in 2019 for Brazilian club Atletico Mineiro, where he won six trophies.
Savarino’s deal is through the 2025 season with a team option for 2026.
“Jefferson obviously is a guy that was really impactful, really effective for us for a handful of years, and that’s why he made the move to Brazil,” RSL General Manager Elliot Fall said Wednesday. “And he’s only continued to be impactful and effective in Brazil and in many ways more effective and more impactful. … He’s a very similar type [of] player to when he left. But that’s what excites us, frankly.”
As a member of RSL from 2017-19, he scored 22 goals and added 21 assists in 87 games (83 starts). He had a few highlight moments, as well, including a game-winning goal against Portland in the first round of the 2019 playoffs.
“Savarino is an incredible player,” defender Justen Glad said. “I think he raises the level of people around him. He’s one of those players that can kind of make something out of nothing. … He’s got that ability to really just switch things around when things are maybe not going as well or we’re not getting opportunities.”
Savarino will be added to the list of designated players along with Damir Kreilach and newcomer Sergio Cordova. Fall said the team has the flexibility to move a couple of players out of their respective DP slots should the front office choose to sign another designated player in the summer.
Coach Pablo Mastroeni said Savarino is still “two and a half, three and a half weeks away” from arriving to Salt Lake City as his visa paperwork gets sorted out. While Mastroeni doesn’t have the same type of intuitional knowledge about Savarino that others in the organization do, he has watched plenty of film on the 25-year-old Venezuelan winger.
And from what he’s seen, Mastroeni already seems to consider Savarino a “special player.”
“We have a lot of good technicians, but it takes a really special player ... to make moments where there’s a lot of people in a smaller space and yet still come out with a great decision,” Mastroeni said. “And I think Savarino has that.”
Glad, who has plenty of playing experience with Savarino, can’t wait until he arrives.
“[I’m] excited to have him back on the squad and work with him,” Glad said. “Hopefully he’s got a lot of goals and assists in his boots this year.”