SANDY, Utah -- Rookie Homegrown Player signing Corey Baird has taken advantage of every opportunity to put himself ahead of MLS veteran Luis Silva and million-dollar signing Alfredo Ortuño on Real Salt Lake's striker depth chart.
Baird's four goals currently leads RSL, one ahead of Silva, after each scored in a 2-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders last Saturday. Meanwhile, Ortuño hasn’t earned anything resembling meaningful minutes since his arrival in Utah this offseason.
While schedule congestion has recently given both Baird and Silva a chance to start, RSL coach Mike Petke says who plays going forward may vary week-to-week based on the opponent and other tactical concerns.
“It’s not about Luis vs. Corey or anything like that,” Petke said. “Luis started against Houston and got a goal that was huge for us. These are decisions that are tough for a coach sometimes but you want to have those decisions."
“They’re two different types of players, Luis is more of a [player who] drops and connects and in the 18-yard-box when we build the ball down there he’s opportunistic. He can get in areas and score. Corey has a bit more pace. He’s younger and stretches defenses a little more,” Petke said.
That Baird has even earned that week-to-week consideration is a tribute to the former Stanford player who began his first MLS season just looking for regular playing time, be it up top or on the wing.
“Expectations have definitely changed over the last couple weeks, goals are definitely higher," Baird said. "I always want to be raising the bar as much as I can.”
Baird scored six goals in 18 appearances in his senior year at Stanford. His four goals in eight MLS games could translate into a run at double digit goals as an MLS rookie if he can manage the new experiences of the longer season and stress of the playoff race.
“I’ve heard people mention the college slump, but I feel good,” Baird said. “The body is feeling good and I feel fit. I’m ready to tackle the rest of the season right now.”
Baird believes he’s cemented himself as a valuable option for RSL, but not necessarily as a de facto starter.
“Knowing that I’ve put the ball in the back of the net a couple of times already, I just have to keep doing that," Baird said. "That’s what gotten me on the field. That and working hard.”