Debutant Damir Kreilach impresses in Real Salt Lake debut

Frisco, Texas • Damir Kreilach played a header behind him, and cut to the middle, putting himself in perfect position for when Luis Silva won the ball back.

Silva played it to Kreilach, who took a touch to settle and another set Albert Rusnák up for an eventual assist, the only one of the game for Real Salt Lake.

Kreilach made his MLS debut in a 1-1 draw against FC Dallas on Saturday at Toyota Stadium. In the team’s season opener, he played a key part in the play that led to RSL’s goal.

“His size, his power, it’s very much needed in the midfield,” Rusnák said. “And for someone like me to have him behind me and know in case I do lose the ball sometimes, that he’s got my back and he’ll win it back. That’s a great feeling. So I think he’s a great fit to our team, and he’s done very well on his first game.”

Kreilach, who was signed by RSL last month, was clearly in midseason form. The Croatian central midfielder played hard for 78 minutes before being subbed out.

“I thought he did very well,” RSL coach Mike Petke said. “I think the more that he’s engrained, as far as on a daily basis in practice starting on Monday, and then in the game against LAFC if he starts [next Saturday] and plays, he’s only going to get better. He’s a winner, he’s a warrior, he’s a hard worker and he has such quality with the ball. I think the partnership that he had with Kyle [Beckerman] today was very good.”

Petke said the one thing he might have Kreilach change was pushing up higher in specific situations, but he acknowledged the more defensive approach is typically taken on the road.

Kreilach milked one play in which he was knocked to the ground, but he said the style of play did not surprise him.

“I know that the MLS is a very good league with high quality,” he said, “and both teams showed this in this game today.”