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3 takeaways from RSL’s ‘road’ victory over Vancouver at Rio Tinto Stadium

The tone was set quickly by RSL as Damir Kreilach scored a chip shot just 42 seconds after the opening whistle was blown.

Real Salt Lake midfielder Damir Kreilach (8) celebrates a quick goal with teammates as Real Salt Lake and Vancouver FC play at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Wednesday, July 7, 2021.
Real Salt Lake midfielder Damir Kreilach (8) celebrates a quick goal with teammates as Real Salt Lake and Vancouver FC play at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Wednesday, July 7, 2021.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

It’s not often that you get to play an away match at your home stadium, but that was the case for Real Salt Lake in its Wednesday night matchup with the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Coming into the game as the last place team in the Western Conference, the Whitecaps had been based out of Rio Tinto Stadium since March due to COVID-19, and as a result, the Claret and Cobalt were gifted a road game disguised and clothed as a home game.

The tone was set quickly by RSL as Damir Kreilach scored a chip shot just 42 seconds after the opening whistle was blown. Kreilach would score again off a header in the 57th minute and Justin Meram earned a penalty chance in the 71st minute which would be gifted to and scored by captain Albert Rusnak on his 27th birthday to give RSL the 3-0 lead.

Anderson Julio scored a garbage-time goal in the 94th minute after subbing on to finalize the score at 4-0.

The win was much needed for an RSL squad that had struggled to capitalize on its home-field advantage so far this season. The win moved the Claret and Cobalt to sixth place in the Western Conference with 16 points and Vancouver remained at the bottom of the standings with the nine points they came into the game with.

Real Salt Lake will now enjoy a 10 day break after a rough stretch that saw it play five games in 19 days.

Here are three takeaways from the victory:

That didn’t take long

Following just 42 seconds of gameplay, before some of the fans had even taken their seats, Aaron Herrera played an impressive ball behind the back line of Vancouver which Kreilach impressively chipped just centimeters over the outstretched hands of Whitecaps keeper Thomas Hasal and into the net.

The goal quickly set the tone for the rest of what turned out to be a dominant game for RSL and allowed the players to play loose against a high-intensity Whitecaps side.

RSL head coach Freddy Juarez said that the team had been emphasizing getting behind the defense in early stages of their games.

“The last three games we’ve really been saying, ‘when we start the game we’ve got to play in their half, we’ve got to play in behind,’” Juarez said. “It was as simple as playing it forward in behind them, being aggressive, and everyone being on the same page knowing that we are going to look to play behind them in the early stages of the game.”

Kreilach continues to haunt the Whitecaps

Thanks to a season full of poor luck, the Whitecaps have had a lot of things haunting them through their first 12 games. But after Wednesday night’s game, it wouldn’t be surprising if Vancouver defenders start having nightmares about Damir Kreilach.

Kreilach secured his second brace and 7th goal of the season when he got his head to a cross made by Justin Meram early in the second half. More than half of Kreilach’s total goals have come against the Whitecaps, with both of the braces coming against the Canadian team.

Kreilach had a handful of opportunities to get a third goal, but wasn’t able to secure the hat trick.

The Croatian midfielder said that his success in Wednesday’s game—and in the season as a whole—has come as a result of pure effort and help from his teammates.

“Every single second I try to give the best out of me,” Kreilach said. “But at the end of the day it’s not about one guy, and it’s not even about 11 guys, it’s about all 30 guys in the locker, it’s all about team stuff.”

RSL finally gets the full points at Rio Tinto

In the confines of the ‘RioT’, RSL had secured only eight of 21 possible points while playing on their own field before Wednesday’s game.

The dropping of points at home had undoubtedly been a point of frustration for Juarez and his squad, who had lost or drawn games that they could’ve won. Unfortunately for the Whitecaps, the frustration appeared to be taken out on them in the four-goal thrashing.

Rusnak said that securing the three points at home was a relief for him and the rest of the club.

“I said after the last game (against LAFC) that we were frustrated,” Rusnak said. “We probably played better against LAFC than we did tonight, but the result is the most important thing. We have a reason to be happy after tonight’s game.”