Real Salt Lake snapped a three-game winless run in league play and kept pace in the Western Conference playoff race after riding Damir Kreilach's brace to a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday.
In danger of falling below the playoff line as soon as next week, RSL put some distance between themselves and the chasing pack. Meanwhile, Fire coach Veljko Paunovic opted for a heavily-rotated lineup in this match despite a growing losing streak in the league, due to an upcoming U.S. Open Cup semifinal match next week.
Stefan Cleveland, in his first MLS appearance, made a vital stop in the Chicago goal on Joao Plata's sharp half-volley in the 22nd minute. But RSL found the breakthrough just before halftime, as Kreilach headed in Jefferson Savarino's cross to put the home side ahead.
Following the halftime break, the Fire climbed right back into the match through Bastian Schweinsteiger, who unleashed a rocket from distance to tie up the game.
RSL thought they grabbed a go-ahead goal on a quick counterattack shortly before the hour mark, but Jefferson Savarino's sliding shot off a rebounded save was called off because the Venezuelan was offside on the initial shot. But Kreilach grabbed his second goal of the night in the 75th minute, poking in Plata's low cross right from point-blank range.
- 45+3' – RSL – Damir Kreilach | Watch
- 48' – CHI – Bastian Schweinsteiger | Watch
- 75' – RSL – Damir Kreilach | Watch
- THE BIG PICTURE: Both teams could have used a win here, and RSL will gladly take all three points, with the likes of Seattle bearing down in the playoff chase. The Fire may be playing in two competitions, and are still in the running for the Open Cup, but the six-game losing streak is pretty much sinking their hopes for the MLS Cup Playoffs.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: RSL will get most of the headlines, but Schweinsteiger's blast was the highlight of the night.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Kreilach was RSL's main man, scoring both goals and showing why Mike Petke has kept the faith through some ups and downs in the Croatian's first season in MLS.