SANDY, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Corey Baird’s first two MLS goals came on the road in Real Salt Lake losses. But this past Saturday, Baird headed in his first goal in front of the home fans in an RSL victory over D.C. United, and that was a completely different feeling.
“Oh, it was amazing,” Baird said. “I joked around with my parents that I just wanted to score in front of the home fans as the Riot. It was amazing that it happened, and it was definitely an experience I won’t forget.”
Baird wasn’t expected to do much as a 22-year-old rookie, but now that he’s tied with Albert Rusnak and Joao Plata for the team lead in goals with three, the bar has been raised.
“When I made my debut, it was just work hard, do my job defensively, and help out in whatever way I can,” Baird said. “Now, every time I go on the field, I’m expecting to score a goal.”
“Our expectations are always that the players that we choose come in, they do the right things and put the work in,” said head coach Mike Petke. “So, did I expect it? I always expect it. Corey is a very honest, hard working, intelligent soccer player. So, we’re seeing a lot of that right now.”
Baird has appreciated the trust Petke has showed in him.
“Mike has given me a lot of confidence in continuing to play me,” Baird said. “Kind words encouraging me on and off the field, so I think that goes a long way. Because when you’re playing confident, you’re a completely different player.”
Baird didn’t come out of nowhere. He was a member of the U.S. Under-20 national team and won three straight national titles at Stanford.
“I think it’s not so much being used to winning, but just hating losing,” Baird said. “I think that’s what made my team in college so successful, how competitive everyone was.”
As a homegrown talent, Baird’s experience with the RSL Academy has helped him tremendously.
“It’s amazing coming in and going through the academy because everything is run so similarly,” he said. “It made the transition for me much easier.”
Baird and Real Salt Lake will try to put back-to-back victories together this Saturday at Philadelphia.