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Damir Kreilach: MLS All-Star Champion

The best and the brightest soccer stars from across the North American landscape descended upon Los Angeles, California for the 25th annual MLS All-Star Game. The MLS All-Stars faced off against the cream of the crop from Liga MX, in what turned out to be an evenly matched battle in front of 22,118 at Banc of California Stadium.

This year’s All-Star event showcased the greatest talent from both leagues, including Real Salt Lake’s own Damir Kreilach.

Kreilach is the Club’s ninth representative at the event, joining legends like Kyle Beckerman, Tony Beltran, Fabian Espindola, Will Johnson, Javier Morales, Eddie Pope, Jamison Olave and Nick Rimando. The midfielder earned his selection after compiling an impressive record of eight goals and five assists in 20 games played, surpassing his totals in both categories from the past two seasons, while on his way to eclipsing his record-setting season in 2018, during which he had 12 goals and eight assists.

“It was a great experience, a great movement, one I’ll never forget in my life. This is the thing you work for during all your career and I think overall it was great,” Kreilach said.

Led by LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley, the MLS All-Stars started the first half, with Kreilach on the bench. The midfielder made his debut in the 46th minute, coming on as a halftime substitute, and was given the captain’s armband for the second half of the match.

The match itself pitted the two countries, Mexico and the United States, against each other in yet another iteration of the North American soccer rivalry.

“Anything that goes on between Mexico and the US is a rivalry,” Bradley explained in a pre-game press conference.

The Liga MX side took the lead in the 20th minute when Jonathan Rodriguez from Cruz Azul hit a right-footed shot clear into the back of the net. Despite several chances at goal the MLS All-Stars went into the halftime break behind the foes from the South.

But the deficit would not last long, as Jesus Murillo from Los Angeles FC headed in a cross from his club teammate Eduard Atuesta to equalize and keep Major League Soccer in the game.

Kreilach showed off his offensive prowess in the second half, tying with FC Dallas' young rising star Ricardo Pepi for the most attempts at goal, by hitting three shots to try and overtake the LIGA MX. In the final moments of the match Kreilach nearly gave his team the win, rising up in the center of the box to connect on a cross from George Bello of Atlanta United, with his shot skating just wide to the bottom left of goal. MLS kept pressing, but to no avail and the final whistle blew on regulation time with both sides in a stalemate at 1-1.

In penalty kicks it was Kreilach who was called upon by Bradley to set the tone, trusting the veteran to lead the way and take the first penalty. Kreilach would not be denied, as he stepped up cool, calm and collected, stutter-stepping on his approach before slamming the ball into the back of the net.

“Before the PKs my teammates told me ‘Don’t listen to the goalie because he’s talking too much,’ so I tried to not listen too much and just try to find the back of the net,” Kreilach recalled of the moments before he took his shot.

After two sensational saves in the shootout from New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner, and converted penalties from Daniel Salloi and Pepi the MLS All-Stars officially celebrated victory over Liga MX, earning another win in the North American rivalry.

“Overall there was a big intensity, we didn’t give up many chances, we created a couple of chances and we deserved to win, a win is a win, we are all gamers and it was exciting and it was fun to be here,” Kreilach said as he celebrated from the sidelines, closing the book on his first game as an MLS All-Star.