Real Salt Lake welcomes Toni Datković, Rubio Rubin gets a new deal, and Jony Menéndez arrives

The Croatian defender and Argentine winger complete the RSL roster

(Real Salt Lake) Toni Datković watches during a recent Real Salt Lake practice session. Datković has been with the team for about a week and was eligible to play.

Real Salt Lake defender Toni Datkovi addressed spoke to his new teammates and coaches for the first time recently and quickly gave a taste of his plans.

“I can’t wait for the games to kick my opponents’ asses,” Datković told the group and laughed.

But nothing about Datković’s statement is funny on a ha-ha level.

RSL signed the left-footed center-back to add depth to the team at that position. He joined a group consisting of Justen Glad, Marcelo Silva, Erik Holt and, if necessary, Nick Besler.

But what Datković goes well with RSL, said coach Freddy Juarez, is the fact that the Croatian prides himself on being a defender first and loves blocking shots and tackling one-ons. His nickname when he played against Spain was “Sicario” or “Hitman” – a nickname he has adopted.

Datković is good friends with midfielder Damir Kreilach, who is also from Croatia. The two met early in their careers when Datković was in the academy in Rijeka and Kreilach was the captain of the first team.

“Everyone looked up to him,” said Datković.

The couple have been friends for 15 years, Kreilach said, adding that he had told the RSL front office what Datković was like as a person. That insight probably proved helpful in deciding whether to sign him.

“He’s a real professional and a real leader,” said Kreilach of Datković. “They are the kind of players this organization needs. I think we will definitely be happy with Toni. “

RSL managing director Elliot Fall said Datković was eligible to play even though he was not yet fit enough to play a full 90 minutes. For him, however, there is still the possibility of playing on the street against the LAFC on Saturday, said Fall.

Datković’s contract runs for two seasons, according to RSL. But if all goes well, he can see himself in Salt Lake in the long term.

“Everyone accepted me as if I had been here for two years,” said Datković. “If this continues and I’m happy, the club is happy, I can be like Damir here – until the end of my career.”

Rubio Rubin receives contract extension

(Isaac Hale | Special to The Tribune) Real Salt Lake striker Rubio Rubin (14) keeps the ball just near the goal in play, but the ball passed by Houston defenders during an MLS game between Real Salt Lake and Houston Dynamo FC at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, June 26, 2021.

Striker Rubio Rubin will be there for the foreseeable future.

Fall on Wednesday while appearing on ESPN700 confirmed that Rubin recently agreed to a contract extension that will keep him at RSL for up to four more years after 2021. The Athletic broke the story right before Fall’s radio appearance.

Rubin’s deal is guaranteed through the 2024 season with an option for 2025, a person familiar with the situation told The Salt Lake Tribune. Rubin’s salary will come close to the budget limit each of those years, the person said. The Athletic was the first to report these details.

Rubin’s base salary for this season is $ 135,000, according to the MLS Players Association. The maximum budget fee for 2021 is $ 612,500.

Rubin started off well in his freshman year in Major League Soccer. In 11 games he has 10 starts, four goals and two assists. Fall told The Tribune last month that Rubin had exceeded expectations and the club wanted him “way beyond” this season.

Jony Menéndez arrives

There was more news about RSL newcomers in the fall: Winger Jony Menéndez landed in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.

At the end of May, the club announced the takeover of Menéndez. Delaying his arrival focused on sorting things out with the immigration process.

Juarez said earlier this week on ESPN700 that all of Menéndez’s paperwork was done and that he is expected to arrive no later than Friday.

Menéndez signed a three-year contract with RSL which brought him in with targeted allotment money. Once integrated into the team, he will compete for minutes alongside other wingers such as Albert Rusnák, Anderson Julio and Justin Meram.

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