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Adam Fondren, Deseret News
Real Salt Lake defender Justen Glad (15) outruns Sporting Kansas City forward Gerso Fernandes (7) to get to the ball as Real Salt Lake takes on Sporting Kansas City at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017. Real Salt Lake wins the match against Sporting Kansas City 2-1.
We've had a full preseason together. We know what Mike wants. We know what he expects and now we can deliver. —RSL defender Justen Glad

SANDY — This March is looking a lot more promising for Real Salt Lake than the first month of the 2017 season, if you ask defender Justen Glad.

The fact that he's on the field is just one good reason.

Last spring, Glad had the disappointment of dealing with a knee injury, which occurred in the final game of the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 qualifying tournament. That sidelined him for the first 3½ months of the season and contributed to the team's slow defensive start.

This time around, Glad returned to RSL healthy after participating in the U.S. National Team camp with teammates Brooks Lennon and Danilo Acosta in January.

There were also struggles and instability surrounding the team, which led to Jeff Cassar being fired and replaced by Real Monarchs coach Mike Petke in the first month in 2017.

Heading into Saturday's MLS opener at Dallas, RSL is in a much healthier position in multiple ways.

"It was tough with the coaching change and all that," Glad said after Tuesday's practice. "We've had a full preseason together. We know what Mike wants. We know what he expects and now we can deliver."

Real certainly delivered after Glad's return last season. The 6-foot-1 defender, who turns 21 on Wednesday, finally debuted on June 17 and started every match after that.

Not coincidentally, RSL only allowed 20 goals the rest of the way — going 9-5-4 — after having given up 35 goals and struggling to a 4-10-2 record as he nursed his knee back to health.

Glad likes where the team is and how it's progressed since he joined them in time for training stints in Phoenix and Orlando. He admitted the club got off to a "really rough" start on their first day together at the Florida camp, but they significantly improved after that.

"That," he said, "is what preseason is for — to get better."

The RSL defense has been focusing on team chemistry along the back line, Glad said. They've worked tirelessly on shifting, dropping, stepping up and simply "getting sharper" as a unit. They're beginning to gel after scrimmages against Orlando and New York.

"Working on those 24 hours a day for two weeks is obviously going to benefit," Glad said.

Glad is a key component of what's expected to be a strong RSL defense, which also includes newcomer Shawn Barry, Acosta, Tony Beltran, Adam Henley, Aaron Herrera, David Horst, Taylor Peay, Demar Phillips and Marcelo Silva.

Real Salt Lake will have another training Thursday before leaving for Texas ahead of Saturday's 6 p.m. match against FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium. The players are eager to get the MLS season underway, with an underlying theme of returning to the playoffs after falling short by one point last year.

That drove them to work even harder this preseason.

"It hasn’t been said, but I think everyone's thinking about it," Glad said. "It's just a mentality you can see in terms of the work we’re putting in on the field. No one’s really slacking. No one’s taking the easy route, and that's because we want to make the playoffs."