The centerback pairing for Real Salt Lake has been fairly consistent and steady for the last few years, rarely alternating outside any combination of Justen Glad, Nedum Onuoha or Marcelo Silva.
But with Onuoha hanging up his boots after an illustrious career, the defensive torch is left to be carried by Silva and Glad for the upcoming season.
This centerback duo first appeared side by side in a match in 2017 against rival Sporting Kansas City, a historically physical and tenacious matchup. At the time, a 20-year-old Glad was in the midst of a nice run of starts after missing the team’s first 16 matches while competing with the United States at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. While Glad was away competing in South Korea the front office back in Utah were coming to terms with a tall, broad, Uruguayan centerback playing with Real Zaragoza in Spain.
Now entering into their fifth season together, the duo has amassed an impressive 16-10-13 record when sharing the pitch, but perhaps the more formidable statistic is the 13 matches they have held their opponent scoreless, meaning every third game they are keeping a clean sheet. For perspective, in the past four seasons the club has recorded 38 clean sheets, one third of which were achieved with the Glad and Silva partnership intact.
“Obviously over the years we’ve gotten to know each other and we continue to get more comfortable with each other,” Silva said of his partnership with Glad. “He makes the game very simple for me, to be able to play with him is very nice.”
Perhaps what has made the couplet so prosperous over the years are the things that separate them. Nearly a decade separates Glad and Silva in age. Despite entering his eighth season in Major League Soccer, Glad only recently turned 24 years old, while Silva will turn 32 by the end of the month. Glad has spent the entirety of his career in the Real Salt Lake organization, brought up through the academy system to the first team, meanwhile RSL marks the seventh club and third country in Silva’s professional career.
Silva, the Uruguayan-born defender, is built like a cross between a tank and NFL linebacker. His strength allows him to man-mark almost any opponent, while his movement off the ball helps anchor the team’s position and his composure and leadership protect the team’s defensive efforts.
“Marcelo brings the brute and the strength, he‘s the guy that is going to kick it in and get the team motivated, he wants to continue to win,” Juarez said.
Next to him, Glad possesses differing abilities. He is agile and quick on his feet, his speed allows him to go toe-to-toe with any forward in the league. And while Silva is anchoring the defense, the team’s passing and possession flows through Glad as he sets the tempo and pattern.
“Glad is someone who is very fast and very agile for a centerback, you don’t get a lot of that in a cenerback,” Juarez said. “Typically, it’s a big guy, someone a little less mobile, but he has great, great mobility, he has outside back speed.”
Apart, the central defenders are both impressive and worthy of praise, but when used together their attributes combine to create the ideal blend for a defensive brick wall, plus, they’re at the height of their careers. With Glad thriving with the U.S. U-23s and Silva primed to take over the leadership of the backline, all signs point to a well-oiled defensive machine.