Real Salt Lake played their way to a 2-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps Saturday night, and a number of players put in solid shifts in securing the win. Perhaps the player who gave the most was RSL’s homegrown rookie Corey Baird, who started his first career MLS match against Vancouver.
Baird’s energy on and off the field was relentless. I lost track of the number of times in the first half alone where I saw Corey all the way back in RSL’s defensive third, providing defensive assistance and support to Demar Phillips and later Adam Henley. But then as soon as RSL regained possession, he was right back into the attack, constantly making runs at the defense both with and without the ball, forcing them to react to him and creating space for his teammates to operate in.
One of the plays that really exemplified Baird’s workrate and contribution in this match was later in the second half when RSL suddenly gained possession near midfield. Almost instantly, Corey made a hard run right down the center of the pitch, right between the centerbacks, and completely drew both center backs to him. Though the ball was not played to him, this was just one example of Corey’s dedication to a complete performance.
Of course, Corey’s greatest contibution came in the 88th minute of play. He made an intelligent run into the box in front of Damir Kreilach, got behind Kendall Waston to get on the end of a through ball, and then took a look before cutting the ball back to an open Jefferson Savarino for what ultimately proved to be the game winning goal.
For all of these contributions big and small, Corey Baird is our Man of the Match.