Damir Kreilach Scores In Final Seconds To Catapult Real Salt Lake Into Playoffs On Decision Day

Nov 7, 2021, 6:22 PM | Updated: 6:42 pm


Damir Kreilach celebrates his first half goal on October 16 against Colorado Rapids. Photo courtesy: Real Salt Lake

SALT LAKE CITY – Damir Kreilach waited for the final kick of the game to gift Real Salt Lake a 1-0 win on the road against Sporting Kansas City to catapult Real Salt Lake into the playoffs.

“I think everyone here was hanging onto hope and this situation right here capitulates our season,” interim manager Pablo Mastroeni said immediately following the game. “It took a lot of guts and a lot of determination…even though the last couple of games didn’t go our way we learned a lot along the way and tonight we played a perfect game.”

In a surprising move, interim manager Pablo Mastroeni opted to change the shape of the team as he went away from his 3-5-2 formation and back to the 4-2-3-1 formation.

Marcelo Silva returned to the starting XI following a significant stint on the sideline. Jonathan Menéndez was also added to the starting XI given the formational change, he began on the right flank.

Sporting Kansas City also needed a win in an effort to solidify a first-round bye with the first seed in the western conference. Sporting began the match in second position and one point behind the Seattle Sounders. Sporting needed a Sounders draw or loss and a win for themselves to earn the first-round bye.

Sadly for Real Salt Lake, SKC had a lot to play for as well. However, SKC entered the fixture with many injury concerns as the likes of Johnny Russel and Ilie Sanchez both began the match on the bench due to injury concerns.

First Half Stalemate

The new shape of the team brought a lot more defensive stability for Real Salt Lake, however, it also dried up the amount of attacking chances that Real Salt Lake was able to muster.

The best chance of the opening 45 minutes for Real Salt Lake came early in the half when captain Albert Rusnák chipped a ball into Rubio Rubin from a set-piece who hit the ball on the half volley but sprayed his shot wide of the far post.

Sporting Kansas City found themselves with more attacking chances in the first half. But the Real Salt Lake defense stood strong and Sporting was not able to generate any serious threats throughout the opening 45 minutes.

At the main interval, the scoreline remained scoreless as both teams looked to make the necessary adjustments at halftime.

Desperation Time

The second half began with a massive David Ochoa save. In the 48th minute, Ochoa made a diving save to his left to deny Dániel Sallói the games opening goal of the game.

Fortunately, Real Salt Lake survived the scare and still found themselves scoreless on the road.

Mastroeni went to his bench shortly thereafter when he brought on Anderson Julio for Rubio Rubin in the 63rd minute. The hope was that Julio’s speed was going to expose SKC on the counter-attack, much as he has done throughout the course of this season.

A pair of changes were made in the 71st minute when Justin Meram came on for Pablo Ruiz and Bobby Wood entered for Jonathan Menéndez.

As the game continued, Real Salt Lake was in need of a desperate goal. But it was SKC that began to control more of the possession the deeper the game went on.

No change in the shape of the team was apparent either, Mastroeni was adamant that the 4-2-3-1 was how Real Salt Lake was going to win.

In the 88th minute, Justen Glad appeared to handle the ball in the box but after a VAR check the incident was ruled to be clean and no penalty was given, much to the disbelief of the SKC faithful in attendance.

Julio then controlled the ball deep in his own half and went for a run of his own. As he approached the area he had Damir Kreilach to his left but opted not to play him, instead, Julio played a pass across the face of the goal but the pass was deflected, and fell back to the feet of Julio who skied his shot over the crossbar.

King Kreilach Delivers At The Death

Then, with 30 seconds left in the game, Justin Meram attempted a bicycle kick in the area that fell to Kreilach who hit the ball on the volley and into the back of the net for the game-winner.

Real Salt Lake qualified for the playoffs with the final kick of the game on the road against Sporting Kansas City. It was a fairytale ending to a chaotic season and of course, Kreilach was the player to gift Real Salt Lake the must-win victory.

“One word, team, it was a complete team effort,” Kreilach said following the win. “We follow the plan on what we wanted to do today and it worked. SKC is a great team at home and had a lot of ball possession but we were so disciplined and fought for everything.”



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Damir Kreilach Scores In Final Seconds To Catapult Real Salt Lake Into Playoffs On Decision Day