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Rubio Rubin signing official, RSL nabs once-promising striker

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The signing brings 24-year-old Rubin to MLS.

Republic of Ireland v USA - International Friendly Photo by Andrew Surma/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Real Salt Lake has made official the news that they have signed American center forward Rubio Rubin to a deal, giving the club its first new signing of 2021.

From a club-issued release, RSL coach Freddy Juarez:

“We’ve kept tabs on him from a young age and we are excited to bring him in. He is young but has experience playing in Europe and Mexico. We hope to be able to help in his continued development and with his quality he can add a lot to our roster.”

From the same release, Rubin:

“I’m excited for the opportunity and challenge to play for Real Salt Lake. I’m looking forward to helping the team win games and work towards winning a championship.”

Rubin, 24, was long considered a national team prospect: To that end, he made seven appearances for the U.S. National Team, scoring no goals in that time.

Rubin’s prospects were undoubtedly helped by his having signed with FC Utrecht as an 18-year-old in 2014. It’s the sort of move that has become commonplace in the last two years, with Real Salt Lake prospects undergoing the switch more than any fan has been truly comfortable with.

His time at FC Utrecht was marred by an ankle injury, and as he was not a prodigious goalscorer as an 19-year-old, he found himself on the transfer block. It was hardly the sort of thing that helps a young player establish themselves in a new league, and Rubin’s stock never truly recovered from that moment, with short-term moves to Silkeborg IF, where he played just 96 minutes, and Stabaek, where he played 122 mintues, not paying dividends.

In fact, it wasn’t until a 2018 move to Club Tijuana that Rubio rediscovered any goalscoring firm, where he played in CONCACAF Champions League action with mixed success before another move, this time to Liga de Expansión MX side Dorados de Sinaloa. It was there that he found his goalscoring acumen again, though seven goals from 42 matches was hardly a world-beating number.

September 2020 saw Rubin on the move again, this time to his first American club: San Diego Loyal, where he was coached by American soccer legend Landon Donovan. He scored five goals in just four matches, with the club famously missing the playoffs after taking a moral stand after a homophobic slur was directed at one of its players, leading to the forfeit of the match.

It was there that Rubin finally found goalscoring success, scoring five goals in four games, including a hat trick against Phoenix Rising FC. He also scored two goals in the match that the Loyal forfeited following their walk-off.