LOS ANGELES (ABC4 Sports) – Real Salt Lake needed help just to get into the playoffs, and now with a little more help, they are moving on.
Damir Kreilach scored two goals, while Jefferson Savarino’s shot in the 69th minute deflected off of defender Walker Zimmerman, as Real Salt Lake stunned LAFC in the knockout round of the MLS playoffs, 3-2.
Real Salt Lake moves on to the Western Conference Semifinals, where they will play Sporting Kansas City in a two-game aggregate goal series beginning Sunday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
RSL barely even made the playoffs, but earned the 6th seed when the L.A. Galaxy lost on the final day of the regular season to Houston.
“You got to love sports,” said a jubilant RSL head coach Mike Petke. “To come into a place like this and get a result, I feel wonderful.”
RSL, which lost both regular season matches against LAFC by a combined score of 7-1, took a 1-0 lead in the 21st minute when Kreilach finished a service from the right corner by Brooks Lennon. Kreilach chested the ball and scored from 12 yards out.
LAFC’s Danilo Silva equalized with a header from eight yards out off the free kick cross by Carlos Vela that beat Nick Rimando to make it 1-1 at the half.
Christian Ramirez gave LAFC the lead in the 54th minute as he took an entry pass from Lee Nguyen, turned toward the goal and fired from distance.
However, four minutes later, Kreilach leveled the match at 2 with a spectacular standing half-volley from outside the box after a poor clearance by LAFC.
“I don’t think Damir should ever have to buy an iced tea in Salt Lake ever again,” Petke said. “That’s what he likes. He’s done such incredible things since he’s been here, so positive, he’s such a leader. For him to come up like this tonight, it’s unbelievable.”
Jefferson Savarino put RSL ahead 3-2 in the 69th after LAFC broke down on a counterattack. Savarino’s shot from the right side was deflected off the head of Los Angeles defender Walker Zimmerman for a decisive own goal.
LAFC had several chances to tie the game up again, but failed to convert.
LAFC lost despite outshooting RSL 21-4 for the match. Real put just two shots on frame for the entire match, both by Kreilach, but both found the back of the net.
Rimando made six saves in goal as RSL won its first playoff game since 2014.
“I’m ecstatic right now,” Petke said. “I’m going to enjoy it for 15 to 20 minutes, then it’s get ready for Sunday.”
Real Salt Lake will host the top seed in the Western Conference, Sporting KC, Sunday at 8:00 p.m. with the second game slated to be played November 11th in Kansas City.
The team with the most goals at the end of the two matches moves on to the Western Conference Finals against either Portland or Seattle. If the teams are tied in total goals, the team with the most road goals advances. If still there is a tie, they will play two 15-minute overtime periods followed by penalty kicks.