It doesn’t get much worse than giving up 11 goals in just two games. That’s what happened to Real Salt Lake’s defense in the final two matches before the June international break – a 5-1 loss at Houston followed by a 6-2 defeat at FC Dallas.
Luckily for Mike Petke’s team, reinforcements were on the way.
Justen Glad, who missed the first three months of the season through a combination of injury and international duty, is finally back in Utah full time and the difference is starting to show.
In RSL’s next MLS game after their disastrous Texas road trip, the 20-year-old center back returned to the starting XI for the first time in 2017. Facing a talented Minnesota attack, Glad’s defense held firm to allow Yura Movsisyan to score the match-winner in the 84th minute. Real Salt Lake won, 1-0, and Glad finished as the game’s highest scoring defender, notching 599 Audi Index points.
Last weekend, Glad turned in another solid effort in the center of defense. Despite the 2-1 road loss to San Jose, the center back finished as his team’s top scorer in the Audi Player Index with 563 points.
MLS defenders average only 250 Audi Index points per game. Glad’s two-game run put him well above that mark, at 581 points.
So how exactly is Glad running up these great totals? One reason is his ability to anticipate the opponent’s next move. Glad is drastically overperforming in key defensive metrics such as Clearances, Interceptions, and Tackles Won. For example, each interception is worth 48 points – against San Jose, Glad had six.
Each clearance, as well, is worth 48 – against Minnesota United, Glad had three while also chipping in two shots inside the box (230 points).
Is the RSL defense still a work in progress? Of course. But after giving up 35 goals in the first 16 games, conceding twice in the span of two matches is a marked improvement.
While the results in the standings have been hard to come by at times, the continued improvement of young players like Glad will surely have RSL fans excited about what’s to come.