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King of the Mountain: In praise of Damir Kreilach

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Damir Kreilach at the top of the game

MLS: New England Revolution at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

At the beginning of the year I wrote a piece after the first match of the season highlighting what we saw from Damir Kreilach. I ranted about how he and Kyle Beckerman were going be the pairing for the year in the middle of the pitch, and that Kreilach was the two-way player coach Mike Petke needed for the team.

After the initial few games Kreilach started getting some criticism, but I never was in doubt of what I had seen him do in that first match. By mid-season I don’t think I heard any bad words about him, except for his sprinting ability maxing out way below par. Nobody is perfect, right?

One thing is for sure. The Croatian has surprised even those of us who knew how good he was with how dynamic he has been for the team. You hear people talk about the spine or backbone of a team. Well, Kreilach has been the spines nervous system, stemming from the defense to the point of attack.

MLS: Knockout Round-Real Salt Lake at Los Angeles FC Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

After what will soon be known as a classic match, a match that has been the most important win in half a decade, Damir Kreilach conquered LAFC and has become the champion of the RioT in 2018. Not only did he play a part in all three goals that lead the way to Real Salt Lake’s victory in Los Angeles, but he also admitted his dancing crane goal was the best he ever scored. These factors combined are all the kind of things legends are born of.

I’m going to quit gushing admiration for a minute and talk about his future beyond 2018. It may be a sensitive topic for some of you out there and I think it should be for the ‘RSL till I die’ faithful.

Beckerman and Rimando are on their way out. This means the captain’s armband must find its way to the next qualified player in line for the job. I believe the armband is in the company of Thor’s Hammer, only the truly worthy should be allowed to weld it.

MLS: Knockout Round-Real Salt Lake at Los Angeles FC Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Had you asked me a year ago I think it’s fair to say a lot of the RSL nation would say in unison Tony Beltran. With his on-field ability to play at the same level in question from a devastating knee injury suffered over a year ago, Beltran has unfortunately taken a backseat to the club’s success on the field in 2018. With Kreilach now in the picture Beltran will have to work himself back into contention for the captaincy.

With Beltran’s unfortunate injury, Kreilach’s experience a leader in Europe, and his ‘it’s all for the team’ attitude I believe Kreilach starts 2019 with the captain band firmly on his arm. It’s the kind of attitude you need as an example to the young men who are on their way up to successful careers local and abroad.

Kreilach has outdone himself to the believers and completely proven the disbelievers wrong. What more can you ask of a person? Petke’s right - Dami, if we now admire him enough to call him that, you should never have to buy a drink in Utah ever again. If you agree to it or not.