Albert Rusnak was awarded the MLS Player of the Week for his performance on Saturday, and it’s on us to really take a good look at why that was the case.
Of course, the first — and most obvious — reason is clear: goals and assists. Those have traditionally been key voting metrics for those who are given the distinct privilege, and Rusnak’s goal and two assists are certainly noteworthy.
This is an interesting one to me, because the common logic says that results in particularly inclement weather aren’t always the best indicator of performance, and I’d buy that. Tactics and all that noise went out the window, and we were left with something pure and entertaining.
But before we got to that point, we actually saw a precursor of what was to come: Albert Rusnak released Brooks Lennon with a tremendous pass down the right side that saw Real Salt Lake nearly go up 1-0 in the opening minutes. There was a bit of fortune involved in it turning out as well as it did, sure, but the quality of the pass was there.
From there, it was largely quiet until the snow started falling. (And, yes, these images are from the same match.) Albert Rusnak’s goal was magical. Unsure of their footing, Vancouver defenders found coping with a long ball into the final third an extremely difficult task. Rusnak’s run is good, but it’s his long touch that makes this great — he hadn’t played professionally in these conditions, but he understood quickly the dynamics the snow provided.
This pass — his first assist on the night — is outstanding, because it shows Rusnak understanding how that ball is likely to stop right in front of Yura Movsisyan. On any other day, maybe he makes that pass, or maybe he doesn’t — but he did it here well. Most notably, he’s picked out Movsisyan in the middle of a snowstorm, which might owe partly to our red uniforms.
His second assist of the night is probably the most fluky — I mean, how often is Luke Mulholland going to score with his knee from a corner? Probably not regularly. It’s a nice one, though, because it floats right over where the goalkeeper’s likely to go, and it lands right in the path of the Englishman.
But it’s more than just goals and assists we can see from Rusnak’s performance. For instance, take a look at this chart — these are long passes that were targeted in the final third. All but two — one of those is from the first moment we discussed at the beginning — came in the second half. That’s good understanding of what might work well, and it certainly did work well.
Interestingly, Rusnak appears unafraid to let a show fly from the outside, and that’s been a purported weak point for Real Salt Lake since, well, Andy Williams, Will Johnson and Javier Morales were in our midfield. Luke Mulholland’s certainly helped ease that a bit, sure — but he’s one man. Rusnak could help solve this issue.