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2021 Player Profiles: Damir Kreilach

RSL’s new captain had a huge 2021. He’s our top-ranked player from last year.

Lucas Muller | RSL Soapbox

It is difficult to think of a Real Salt Lake player in the last five years who has been more impactful than Damir Kreilach.

It’s also hard to think of a player who more fully embodied what we wanted Real Salt Lake to be, rather than what it was.

It will come as no surprise to any of you that Damir Kreilach was the player ranked highest by RSL Soapbox staff and contributors. He is a tremendous player, and he had a tremendous season.

In celebration of Kreilach, and in lieu of a more-standard player profile, a number of RSL Soapbox contributors have shared their thoughts on Kreilach.

Ian Knighton

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done, the ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won, the port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

For the sake of this post, let’s pretend that’s the end of Walt Whitman the poem.

In what can only be described as a turbulent season, Damir Kreilach was the ship’s anchor.

When the seas were rough, he kept the team grounded.
When the course was uncharted, he kept the team on a path.
When the treasure seemed out of reach, he made a last ditch effort to keep the team moving forward.

Damir has been an absolute treasure since he joined the team and the 2021 season just further cemented him into the better history of this club. He also scored 16 goals and had eight assists, which you really can’t complain about.

It’s worth noting that Damir is 34 games and eight yellow cards away from his time with Real Salt Lake being the most significant of his long career.

Megan Webb

The time has finally come, after at least a year of asking (though, let’s be honest, since Karate Kreilach I don’t think one of us has doubted this should be would be our reality one day) RSL nation will get to yell “captain #6 Damir Kreilach” on home opener day. What a time, huh! The captain’s performance in 2021 solidified he needed that title.

As mentioned before. 16 goals and eight assists. But besides those numbers, Kreilach had a year of vocal leadership. In 2021 Damir Kreilach brought many memories and goals, but the thing he Brough most that is why his presence was so felt: a pride of wearing the Real Salt Lake crest.

It’s been a while since RSL nation has felt someone embodies the core beliefs of the club. Damir Kreilach does that. His pride and passion for this club is the lifeline it needed, and that’s why he’s our 2021 season “MVP,” if you will.

Kreg Asay

Damir Kreilach currently sits 4th in RSL’s all-time scoring list with 42 goals in regular season play, and 5th in the assist list. If he gets more than seven goals in 2022, he will surpass Javier Morales for 2nd place, behind only Alvaro Saborio; more than six assists will move him into fourth, passing Andy Williams. If there remain any naysayers left in the fanbase, they should recognize that he deserves to be listed among RSL’s all-time greatest players.

We really haven’t had a player who is able to inspire and carry the team forward for some time. Beckerman, Morales and Saborio were all able to do that during the height of RSL’s ‘glory days.’ We look back with nostalgia on those bygone days, and now with Damir we have a glimmer of it again. With the right players around him we could see a new phase of glory for our team. Let’s hope we can keep him here, and capture that lightning before he decides to hang up his boots.

Samuel Clark

The list of players that have suited up for Real Salt Lake that have carried such professionalism, integrity, and unselfishness to the degree Damir has is extremely short. Not because our players tend to lack these attributes, quite the contrary, but simply because Kreilach embodies them to such an incredible standard.

The 2021 campaign was no different, as we all witnessed what has been arguably his best season as a professional to date, going as far as to captaining the MLS All-Star team last summer. It’s not simply the dramatic moments in do-or-die scenario’s that has endeared the Croatian to the fan base so much, but his work ethic and team play on the field. You have a player who would play at center-back, holding midfield, striker, anything that allows him to help the team to the best of his abilities.

We are more than a bit lucky to have crossed paths with such a resolute player that values family and camaraderie above all. I think I speak for the majority of fans when I say that I would love nothing more than to see our Dami finish his career in Claret and Cobalt, however long that might be.

Ryan Hamblin

What is there to say that hasn’t already been said about our “he who has always been” our legendary captain; our king and Karate Krei! I remember vividly the days when Damir arrived to this broken little club of ours. He took on the responsibility of captain-ship without officially having the armband and ran with it. It’s clear to everyone in the club and fanbase that Damir is the type of person you want leading your squad.

That very first season that he got here I remember the conversations in our small group of supporters standing in section 35; we all collectively agreed that this was Dami’s team. After all the team is the star. It has been so much fun watching him rise to these early expectations we had set for him.

His embodiment of who we are as a club exudes from the person we know he is. We LOVE Dami. I for one can’t imagine us moving forward without him and I’m eager to see him lead the team from his rightful position on the pitch wearing that armband with pride. Here’s to many more years of excellence from the Croatian Captain Kreilach!

Russ MacKay

What more can be said? Damir is the captain and heart of this team. He seems to have been the player to try to take up the mantle left by Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando. He brings a fire at times, and provides those last second goals. When he is on the field you never can fully count the team out.

I remember sitting in the stands at Rio Tinto and hearing people frustrated with him when he first came to the team. They would see him as a detriment, I don’t hear those comments anymore. I heard a lot of questions about why he wasn’t captain last year, so I expect to hear general agreement that he is the true RSL captain at this point.

I for one am glad he is on the team, he is the captain, and I expect to see great things this season from him. I think with the armband on, more of his enthusiasm and who he is will come out in the locker room and on the pitch. I am looking forward to seeing him step up more with the official title of captain. Go Real!

Stockton Mair

Quite frankly I don’t know what to say here. According to everyone who knows him, he’s the nicest person on the planet, and it shows whenever he does interviews. He always treats people with respect no matter what the result is and I have the utmost respect for him.

Damir is my favorite player on the team by far, and that’s not meant to be a slight towards any of the other players. He just knows what it means and should mean to wear the RSL crest over his heart. He knows how to represent this team and this community perfectly. Honestly, I think he should’ve been captain last year. I’m so very glad that he’s a member of this team, and I hope he retires here. I know there’s a running joke about him being “top 5,” but I legit think he is.