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2016 Player Profiles, #1: Aaron Maund

Aaron Maund has been a defensive staple for the last two years, and that’s not going to change.

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Real Salt Lake Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

26-year-old center back Aaron Maund earned himself the title of the club’s Defender of the Year in 2015 following his breakout season when he locked down the starting spot in the absence of Nat Borchers — starting in 21 of his 22 appearances throughout the season.

Drafted in 2012 by Toronto FC, Maund made his way to Real Salt Lake in the following offseason with a trade that saw Justin Braun shipped to Toronto. After spending two seasons mostly in the shadows of Borchers and Chris Schuler, Borchers was sent to Portland after the 2014 season and Maund was called upon as a regular starter in his stead for 2015.

2016 was no different, as Maund started 20 of RSL’s first 23 games, eventually forming a solid partnership with Justen Glad after the 19-year-old earned his starting spot over veteran Jamison Olave. Maund found himself riding high all season long with some top-notch defensive play that even included four heroic goal-line clearances that kept RSL in good positions.

Unfortunately, arguably the best season of his professional career would be cut short.

Maund suffered a toe fracture in early August that kept him off the field altogether, and the status of his return seemed up in the air for quite a while. With the medical staff eventually ruling out surgical treatment, he was training with the team by October, but would end up missing the rest of the season.

With Maund out of the lineup, that left the primary starting positions to be filled by Olave and Glad. It’s no coincidence that RSL announced the re-signing of Chris Schuler just over a week after Maund’s injury, which provided some much-needed depth in central defense.

As of December 19th, we know that we’ll see Maund back in an RSL uniform for the 2017 season, as general manager Craig Waibel confirmed that they had reached an agreement for a new deal to bring him back. Now that the fanbase can breathe a collective sigh of relief, what can we expect to see from him next season?

Assuming he’s match fit — and we have no reason to believe otherwise — we should see some interesting rotation between Maund, Schuler, and Glad throughout the season that will surely be greeted with delight, as RSL has never really had an abundance of starting-quality center backs. Flanked by Demar Phillips on the left and Tony Beltran on the right, we’re sure to see some spectacular defensive play from the claret-and-cobalt next season.

I’d expect Maund to start a majority of the games in 2017 and continue to develop his leadership skills, on and off the field, as he goes on to establish himself as a seasoned veteran in Salt Lake.