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Player Profiles: Justen Glad's potential starts to come to fruition

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Justen Glad, one of the top-rated American prospects and a budding young defender with Real Salt Lake, is only 18, but he's already making waves in MLS.

Glad joined Real Salt Lake in mid-2014 straight out of high school — his junior year, that is — graduating directly from the academy to the first-team. But let's not hyper-focus on his arrival, because 2015 was supposed to be the year Justen Glad makes his debut.

And, of course, he did. He made six starts and one further substitute appearance, starting consecutive games on two occasions.

But the really remarkable part of that is that in late 2014, Glad suffered a concussion that kept him off the field for about six months. As a young player waiting to get his opportunity, that was a bigger blow than anyone would have hoped for.

But when Glad made his professional debut in April for Real Monarchs, those worries were set to the side — if just for a bit — with the center back scoring. Yes, in his first professional match. Yes, it was fantastic. Yes, you can watch it.

With his first-team minutes, you could construct two equal stories about Glad's development as a player. He was sometimes really, really good; other times, he showed exactly why you can't expect an 18-year-old to step into a center back spot and excel at every asking. For his troubles, Glad made the MLS Homegrown team — a nice plaudit, to be sure.

By way of examples, watch his performance against D.C. United in that 6-4 destruction (sigh) and compare that to, say, one of his appearance against Sporting Kansas City. These are things you have to expect from young players, taking solace in the fact that he showed that amazing potential we've been hearing about for, what, three years?

2016 could be an even bigger year for Justen Glad than 2015. He's coming off a meniscus surgery, which hopefully won't keep him out of preseason play, but more importantly, he might have a chance to stake a claim as the first backup to the center back pairing.

Of course, there are huge, unanswered questions about that — so let's come back to it in, say, February, when we know what sort of squad Real Salt Lake will be putting out.

Whatever the case, it's hard to imagine Justen Glad won't play a bigger role this year than last.