Sep 1, 2018; Sandy, UT, USA; Real Salt Lake midfielder Damir Kreilach (6) congratulates midfielder Albert Rusnak (11) after his second half goal against the Los Angeles Galaxy at Rio Tinto Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
SANDY, Utah — Twelve goals in two matches — Real Salt Lake (13-10-5) isn’t messing around after becoming the first team in Major League Soccer history to score six goals in back-to-back games.
After a scoring frenzy against Colorado last weekend, in which RSL won 6-0 (Colorado was down a man for much of the match), RSL used whatever fire and energy it had left, which apparently was a lot, to thrash the LA Galaxy (10-10-8) in Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday night.
After going down a goal in the opening minute, RSL went on to win the match 6-2.
The announced 21,363 fans may have thought a hat trick was on the horizon with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in town, but instead the clear man of the match was Damir Kreilach, who scored a hat trick for Real Salt Lake, and all three goals were executed beautifully.
Kreilach’s first goal came in the first half stoppage time as he chested the ball down to his feet, kicked it back up to his head, then his header sealed the deal as he put Real Salt Lake up 2-1.
For his second goal, Albert Rusnák couldn’t quite shake off the Galaxy’s goalkeeper, but he found a sprinting Kreilach who found himself diving and sliding to connect his foot with the ball, and that score gave Real a 4-1 advantage in the 61st minute.
His final goal of the night came in the 71st minute after Jefferson Savarino played a ball to him in the center of the box, and his right-footed touch completed his hat trick as he gave RSL a 6-2 lead and eventual three points.
In the locker room following the match, Kreilach was going around having his teammates sign a ball to commemorate the night, and when he spoke after the game, he focused on the team rather than himself.
“I’m very happy about [the hat trick], but I’m much more happy about three points, because in the end we deserved to win and we played unbelievable,” Kreilach said.
Real Salt Lake has been on a tear as of late. With the playoffs nearing and only so many games left to play, RSL head coach Mike Petke has instilled a sense of urgency, but more importantly a sense of confidence in his players as Real has now won three straight games.
After the game, Petke thought his team played a near-perfect 90 minutes, and if he were to give out a game ball, something he rarely does, he would give one to every player.
“To be able to sit there from the start of the game and watch the specific things we talked about and worked on in training actually, perfectly taking place, I mean we have a young back line and they shut down tonight one of the best forwards you could say in the last 10, 15 years in the world,” Petke said.
Entering Saturday night’s match, only three points separated RSL and the Galaxy in the standings, with RSL sitting in fifth place with 41 points and the Galaxy sitting just outside of the playoff picture in seventh place with 38 points.
So with playoff aspirations on the line and each side trying to edge the other one out of the picture, it was set up to be a competitive match. Only, RSL came in with a mindset to not only keep up with a team that had beat them 3-0 on the road earlier this season, it came out with a mindset to dominate.
The match’s other goal scorers included Rusnák, who scored in the 14th and 68th minute with similar strikes from the top center of the box, and Savarino, who was credited with a goal in the 48th minute after some fancy footwork and a strike was deflected off of the foot of the Galaxy’s Michaël Ciani. The Galaxy’s two goals were scored by Ashley Cole in the first minute and Romain Alessandrini in the 63rd minute.
Though goalkeeper Nick Rimando allowed two goals, he denied Ibrahimovic on a couple of different occasions, and Ibrahimovic was unable to score his 500th goal, something the Real defense was proud it didn’t happen.
“The team [was] motivated all week to not only shut out Zlatan, but for the playoff push,” said defender Justen Glad. “That was a huge win for us tonight.”
Real Salt Lake now sits with 44 points in the fourth spot in the Western Conference heading into a bye week, and the Galaxy have slid down to eighth.
Real’s next game will be at home against Minnesota United FC on Saturday Sept. 15 at 7:30 p.m, and by the time Sunday morning rolls around, Petke is going to forget about this four-goal win and focus on preparing for the next match.
“To me as a coach, as many joys as I get on a weekly basis, I think the biggest satisfaction for coaches is knowing that what you guys are working on is being seen,” Petke said.