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Damir Kreilach thriving in first season with RSL

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Real Salt Lake midfielder Damir Kreilach (6) kicks the ball ahead of Colorado Rapids defender Danny Wilson (4) as Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids play at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, July 21, 2018.

Real Salt Lake midfielder Damir Kreilach (6) kicks the ball ahead of Colorado Rapids defender Danny Wilson (4) as Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids play at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, July 21, 2018.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

HERRIMAN — Damir Kreilach has made a splash during his debut season with Real Salt Lake, scoring his fourth goal during Saturday night's 2-2 draw against the Colorado Rapids.

The goal came from an assist from Joao Plata when Kreilach was in the perfect position to head the ball straight into the net in the 11th minute of play. Despite the 70-minute rain delay that took a toll of RSL's momentum in the second half, Kreilach remains optimistic moving forward.

"It was a good feeling," Kreilach said. "But for me it's more important on what we can achieve as a team."

Kreilach's height gives him an edge in the game. Standing at 6-foot-1, he's one of RSL's tallest players on the roster and he's also deadly as the team's starting box-to-box midfielder. He also brings experience and leadership to the team. Before his tenure in Utah, Kreilach played five seasons for Union Berlin for which he scored 33 goals in 147 matches.

Prior to his time in Germany, he played in his home country of Croatia for Rijeka starting at the age of 18. During his time in Rijeka, he played 128 matches and scored 19 goals.

"He’s a presence in the air and he's quality on the ground," RSL assistant coach Freddy Juarez, who is filling in as head coach during Mike Petke's suspension, said of Kreilach. "He brings some experience. When you look at our team, we're not the tallest of teams so we get a little bit in trouble whether that's defending set pieces or we need to get the ball forward. He becomes a target player when we can match him up against the opponent's biggest players."

Kreilach's teammates also appreciate the depth he has brought to the roster this season.

"He’s a big boy and he helps especially against teams where we can't build out and we go a little bit longer," said teammate Albert Rusnak. "He can win a header for sure because the rest of us are pretty small."

Kreilach will play a huge role in RSL's next match on the road against the San Jose Earthquakes. Although San Jose is ranked last in the Western Conference, RSL has struggled on the road with a 9-9-3 overall record.

"Last game, unfortunately, we lost two points against Colorado but this week was pretty good," Kreilach said. "We did very good in practice."