SANDY, Utah – Damir Kreilach’s early days at Real Salt Lake have been a work in progress.
Arriving fresh from a pivotal role at German club Union Berlin, the Croatian midfielder didn’t join RSL until their final preseason camp in Orlando. He nonetheless showed enough to earn a start in the season opener and has been in the starting 11 every game since, though with only one assist and no goals in his first six MLS matches.
What head coach Mike Petke has seen in practice started to reveal itself on Saturday against Colorado, as Kreilach scored his first goal for Salt Lake in the 89th minute of their 3-0 Rocky Mountain Cup victory over Colorado.
“The more comfortable he gets in the weeks ahead, you’re going to see him more in advanced positions. It’s going to take him a little bit of time,” Petke said postgame.
Kreilach helped combine for the final goal in a 2-1 win over Vancouver on Apr. 7, and against the Rapids he perfectly placed an insurance goal to give RSL a 2-0 advantage. He also produced a header that just missed over the bar on a corner kick in the second half.
Over the first five games of the season Kreilach spent more of his time with Kyle Beckerman deeper in the RSL midfield, rather than advanced to help playmaker Albert Rusnak. But he’s learning how to strike the balance in the spaces between the two players.
“Yes,” said Kreilach on Saturday when asked if he’s getting more comfortable with his new team. “Normally when we’re at home our confidence is so big, and we needed it today. It was one game, but it was very important to us.
“I’m very happy about my first goal but we need to keep fighting.”
His confidence, especially in connecting with his teammates, is still developing. Like many other international arriving in MLS from abroad, that can take longer than just five games.
“He’s going through what a lot of people coming over from a foreign league go through, adjusting to everything, the culture, the travel, the style of play,” Petke said.