VANCOUVER, Canada (Saturday, February 25, 2023) – Real Salt Lake (1-0-0, 3 points) earned a come-from-behind road victory to open the 2023 Major League Soccer season. Second-half goals from perennial Homegrown Justen Glad and RSL Captain Damir Kreilach, along with six saves from Zac MacMath, helped RSL secure the 2-1 win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
From the first whistle Real Salt Lake struggled to gain consistent momentum as the Whitecaps pestered the RSL goal with an onslaught of opportunities. Despite withstanding the initial waves of Vancouver’s offense thanks to some impressive saves from goalkeeper Zac MacMath, the Whitecaps were able to break through in the 24th minute when Javain Brown took the 1-0 lead off a corner kick. In the final moments of the first half it looked as if RSL was beginning to get its footing, putting several chances in the path of goal, but the team was unable to convert.
After having difficulty in the final third in the first half, Real Salt Lake came out swinging in the second 45 minutes with a flurry of chances, indicating a possible change of tides for the Claret-and-Cobalt. In the 58th minute, four different RSL players created opportunities, but Vancouver’s goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka was able to snuff out the danger. Despite having a long spell of possession, the Whitecaps nearly doubled their lead when Brian White found himself unmarked running towards goal, but a sliding save from MacMath prevented what appeared to be a sure goal.
In the 70th minute Real Salt Lake’s offensive pressure finally paid dividends when Maikel Chang found the outstretched leg of Justen Glad to level the score. Just three minutes later RSL Captain Damir Kreilach netted the go-ahead goal off a short pass from Jefferson Savarino. The goal marked the miraculous return for Kreilach, who missed nearly all of last season after suffering a back injury on April 17, 2022.
Real Salt Lake withstood Vancouver’s desperate measures to equalize for the remaining 17 minutes to steal the 2-1 road victory, giving the team its 14th-consecutive result to start a season, good for the longest streak in league history.
UP NEXT: Real Salt Lake will remain on the road, traveling to face Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday, March 4 at 8:30 p.m. MT, before returning to America First Field for the team’s home opener on Saturday, March 11 at 7:30 p.m. MT against Austin FC.
GOAL SCORING SUMMARY:
VAN: Javain Brown (Julian Gressel) 24th minute: After winning a corner kick Gressel serviced the ball directly onto the oncoming head of Brown who flicked it past Zac MacMath
RSL: Justen Glad (Maikel Chang) 70th minute: From deep outside the 18-yard-box Chang lofted a cross over the Whitecaps defense to an unmarked Glad who slid towards goal, toe-poking the ball into the back of the net.
RSL: Damir Kreilach (Jefferson Savarino) 73rd minute: Cutting in towards goal Savarino slalomed his way around a Vancouver defender before sending a cheeky pass through the legs of his opposition to Kreilach who rocketed a shot with his left foot to take the lead.
- RSL Captain Damir Kreilach made his first Major League Soccer appearance in nearly 11 months, last taking the pitch on April 17, 2022 against New York City FC, during which he suffered a back injury which sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
- 17-year-old goalkeeper Gavin Beavers appeared on the gameday roster for the first time in his Real Salt Lake career.
- Andrés Gómez made his RSL debut as a second-half substitute for Maikel Chang.
- Captain Damir Kreilach scored his 44th goal for Real Salt Lake, now just two away from tying Joao Plata for third all-time in Club history.
- The victory gave Real Salt Lake its 14th-consecutive result (7W-0L-7D) in a season opener, the longest streak in league history. Additionally, 13 of those 14 games have been played on the road.
Real Salt Lake (4-4-2): Zac MacMath; Andrew Brody (Bode Hidalgo 88’), Justen Glad, Marcelo Silva, Bryan Oviedo; Maikel Chang (Andres Gomez 74’), Jasper Löffelsend, Braian Ojeda (Scott Caldwell 88’), Jefferson Savarino (Justin Meram 79’); Damir Kreilach, Anderson Julio (Danny Musovski 79’)
Subs not used: Gavin Beavers, Ilijah Paul, Erik Holt, Moses Nyeman
Vancouver Whitecaps FC (4-3-2-1): Yohei Takaoka; Ranko Veselinovic, Tristan Blackmon, Luis Martins (Ali Ahmed 86’), Javain Brown (Ryan Raposo, 76’); Alessandro Schopt, Julian Gressel (Sergio Cordova 76’), Andres Cubas, Ryan Gauld; Cristian Dajome (Pedro Vite 66’), Brian White
Subs not used: Thomas Hasal, Mathias Laborda, Karifa Yao, Sebastian Berhalter, Russell Teibert
Stats Summary: RSL / VAN
Shots: 11 / 18
Shots on Goal: 7 / 7
Saves: 6 / 5
Corner Kicks: 6 / 10
Fouls: 3 / 10
RSL: Jasper Löffelsend (caution) 15’
Referee: Ismir Pekmic
Assistant Referees: Michael Barwegen, Oscar Mitchell-Carvalho
4th Official: Filip Dujoc
VAR: Jair Marrufo