When Real Salt Lake training sessions end, most of the players walk up the stairs from the grass fields to the upper portion of the team’s Herriman facility for stretching, weight lifting or treatment. But midfielder Damir Kreilach keeps shooting.
If Kreilach misses, “Again.” If he misses another, “Again.” A third, “Again.”
“Sometimes we have to go an extra 10 minutes because he won’t leave until he scores a goal,” coach Freddy Juarez said.
It’s that type of constant preparation that makes Kreilach so clutch. No matter the moment, he delivers.
Need a karate kick goal in the playoffs to help knock off LAFC? Kreilach is there. Need a late equalizer against FC Dallas on the road? He’s there. Need a goal in less than a minute and then one after halftime to extend a lead and turn around a funk? He’s there.
“I try every single second to give the best out of me,” Kreilach said after RSL pummeled the Vancouver Whitecaps, 4-0, on Wednesday night.
Kreilach scored two goals against the Whitecaps, bringing his season total to seven — a team high. In three-plus seasons with RSL, he has scored 33 goals in the regular season and four in the playoffs. And there’s plenty of evidence to think it won’t stop there.
“He’s a big-time player, and in big moments, he’s not fazed,” General Manager Elliot Fall said. “He wants the spotlight and he wants the ball and he wants to be the one to make a play for the group.”
Kreilach is all about the group. When reporters ask questions about his performances, trying to get the tiniest glimpse into his soccer mind, he always starts his answer by talking about the team. Sometimes the extent of talking about himself doesn’t go further than one sentence.
But Kreilach’s impact is multifaceted. Former goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who is now a coach at the academy level for the club, called him “the biggest leader in that locker room today.”
For instance, Kreilach had an opportunity to nab a hat trick against the Whitecaps after forward Justin Meram drew a penalty. Midfielder Albert Rusnák is usually the one who takes those shots, but the team wanted Kreilach to take it.
It was Rusnák’s birthday on Wednesday, so Kreilach gave up his chance at three goals for his teammate.
Juarez said he’s not privy to what Kreilach does when he’s not at the training facility. But he sees the extra things Kreilach does. And from a mentality standpoint, Juarez said Kreilach is on another level.
“Psychologically, he’s a beast,” Juarez said.
And from a soccer standpoint, Kreilach is smart as a whip, according to those who used to coach and play with him.
“Damir comes through at the right moment because he’s a smart player, he’s a clever player, he knows when to arrive, when to assess the moment and when to deliver,” former assistant coach Tyrone Marshall said.
Former midfielder Kyle Beckerman, who now coaches men’s soccer at Utah Valley University, said “nothing is just happening” for Kreilach, which is indicative of how Kreilach seems to be in control of moments despite the frenetic nature of soccer.
But what makes Kreilach so effective might be how he approaches those in-between moments.
“It’s all in preparation,” Juarez said. “His mentality is unbelievable of how to be a pro and how to prepare on the day-to-day for a game.”