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Damir Kreilach and RSL’s new transition

How the Croatian stengthens the RSL backbone

MLS: Real Salt Lake at FC Dallas Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t need to see another game to be convinced that Damir Kreilach is a perfect player for Real Salt Lake. As dynamic as Rusnak and as disciplined as Beckerman, the RSL engine looks good thanks to the Croatian’s work rate and positioning.

We knew what he was capable of going into the season, but I don’t think any of us expected to see him perform so seamlessly well. For a player to integrate into the team that quckly and make it look like he’s been there all along shows a ton about his experience as a leader on the field. He took the opportunity and he truly does know what he’s doing.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at FC Dallas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

From the opening whistle Kreilach had great vision and awareness in both halves of the field. He picked his timing perfectly when making runs down the gut into the box, undoubtedly from the years of experience in Europe, he never over-commited to the play in front of him and he never seemed to look overwhelmed by the intricate speed of play (and dirty fouls) around him. If he can do this in Dallas for his first MLS match ever, then it’s scary to think what he’ll be doing after his 10th match.

Coming into the 2018 season, there was something RSL still needed. We still weren’t able to counter out of the back through possessions- usually on turn-overs. If there’s one thing I saw the team trying to do against Dallas- it was this possession-to-counter tactic. Rather than playing in a pillow fort till the team coughed up the ball to one of our attacking players, RSL played with patience. We controlled the ball and determined the tempo. Then we’d bait them out till a channel opened in the middle or the wide players turn and run on a defender out on the wing.

Watch how Damir wins the ball, keeps possession with simple passes, then leads the pass down an open channel for Rusnak into the counter.

With KB5 nearing the end of his reign as head of the helm (long live the king!, still looking good, Kyle) the RSL club may be looking for Damir to take charge in the outfield. We’ve already seen his leadership skills. He commands rather than communicates. It’s not easy playing at the speed without knowing how to speak to each other (Kreilach knows barely any English). Instead, we saw him making eye contact and pointing. Not pointing for a player to be aware, but pointing in a way that says “Handle that. Now.”

Damir Kreilach is an amazing two-way talent. He might be Petke the figure was waiting for to complete this team tactically, and he fills the transition role completely. If Rusnak is the spring to the counter attack then Damir is the physics behind the spring. The best part is, he does this while staying in tandem with Kyle. I expect we are seeing the start of a partnership that we won’t forget anytime soon.