A brace from Damir Kreilach earned Real Salt Lake a vital three points in the standings in a 2-1 victory over the fledgling Chicago Fire Saturday night in Utah.
The victory gives RSL some cushion in their pursuit of a playoff spot as they currently occupy sixth in the Western Conference table with 34 points. Chicago fell into three-way tie for eighth in the Eastern Conference with Orlando and Toronto with 23 points a piece.
The first goal from Kreilach was a superb header from the Croatian midfielder in first half stoppage time to give the claret and cobalt a 1-0 lead at halftime. Chicago opened up the match with their forwards sitting back a bit on defence so they could exploit RSL on the counter attack and if not for a world class strike from Bastian Schweinsteiger in the 48th minute it would have been another hapless effort from the Fire offensively.
RSL kept getting chance after chance on a Chicago defence that looked every bit as outclassed as their recent form indicates surrendering 17 goals in the last six matches. Finally in the 75th minute Kreilach scored another excellent goal off a cross from Joao Plata to give RSL the lead for good at 2-1.
Kreilach, the obvious man of the match, is tied for the club lead with six goals and has thrown in three assists as well. Kreilach and his runs on the attack and his ability to get back on the defence make him one of the most vital players for Manager Mike Petke and his rebuild of the RSL.
The victory improves RSL to 10-4-9 on the season and an impressive 9-2-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium running their unbeaten home streak to 11. Chicago drop to 6-5-13 and needing turnaround in the last 10 games of the season.
RSL next face another Eastern Conference foe at home against the Montreal Impact on Saturday August 11th. Chicago next play in the U.S. Open Cup semi-finals Tuesday hosting the Philadelphia Union.
Written by Allen Corbin – (@AllenCorbin)