Entering the 2015 season, Aaron Maund and Justen Glad were not expected to see much in terms of playing time. The young defensive duo had stalwarts Jamison Olave and Chris Schuler and newly-signed Guatemalan international Elias Vasquez to compete with for center back minutes. Fast forward to 2016 and the youngest center back tandem in MLS is strong and getting stronger as Real Salt Lake storms through a busy May road calendar.
After posting a 3-1 win over Sporting Kansas City on Saturday, RSL is now a perfect 5-0-0 when starting Glad and Maund together, sporting a cool 0.44 goals against average in the 401 minutes they have played together. While Head Coach Jeff Cassar is impressed with the cohesion shown all over the field, the meteoric rise of the center back tandem has been a boost for RSL’s defense.
“I’m really pleased with their budding relationship on the field and off the field. But I’m really pleased with their consistency,” Cassar said on The Bill Riley Show on ESPN 700 in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. “I really know what I’m going to get when I put them out there and that’s a good thing for a coach to have is that confidence of what kind of performance that you’re going to get.”
Maund saw rapid growth last season, going from just 432 minutes played in 2014 to 1,974 minutes played and RSL Defender of the Year honors in 2015. Meanwhile, Glad saw his path from the RSL-Arizona Academy take a dramatic turn this year.
The 19-year-old defender bypassed a scholarship to Stanford to come to RSL and last year saw action in seven matches at the MLS level and seven more with Real Monarchs in the USL. With his first full professional season now behind him, he has already made seven starts for Real Salt Lake this season. After training alongside the likes of former MLS Best XI defenders Nat Borchers and Olave and getting coaching from MLS mainstays Craig Waibel and Tyrone Marshall, Glad has shown an ability to take in all the information around him to improve at a great rate.
“I think he does everything extremely well. I don’t think he has any weaknesses in his game, but he can grow in a lot of areas. It’s been a great progression for him,” Cassar said. “He’s taken things right in stride and not tried to rush things too early. Now he’s getting this opportunity and seizing it and grabbing it and holding on to it and not letting it go.”
Glad, Maund and RSL will close out its stretch of five consecutive road matches against Columbus Crew SC on Saturday and New York City FC on June 2. RSL is currently 2-3-2 away from home, with both victories coming against Sporting Kansas City.