HERRIMAN — Corey Baird was named to the provisional U.S. National Team roster this week for the CONCACAF Gold Cup next month, and the second-year Real Salt Lake player believes consistent playing time is a big reason why.
In the 14 months since his MLS debut last March, Baird has played in 42 games for RSL and made 30 starts. His confidence has increased with each appearance.
“I’m getting consistent minutes. I think last year during this time was when I was first able to break into the lineup and play more consistently. I’ve got a year and a half under my belt where I’ve shown what I can do where it’s not a spurt of four or five games of, ‘Oh, there might be something there.’ I’ve shown over the last year and a half what I can do and I’m hoping to keep improving on that,” said Baird.
U.S. National Team coach Gregg Berhalter has noticed Baird’s improvement and he’s rewarded him yet again.
Baird was called into the U.S. National Team’s January camp earlier this year, making appearances in both friendlies afterward — a 3-0 win vs. Panama and a 2-0 win vs. Costa Rica. In March he was called in again for two friendlies against Ecuador and Chile. He started against Chile in the 1-1 draw in Houston.
On Monday, Baird was named to the 40-man preliminary Gold Cup roster, which will be whittled to 23 players in the first week in June.
“Still work to do to hopefully make it to the 23-man roster to get the actual call up, but it’s nice to get some recognition, nice to know I’m still on their radar,” said Baird.
RSL coach Mike Petke is optimistic of Baird’s inclusion in the squad.
“If I’m guessing he’ll be a part of that, he’s earned that,” said Petke.
Baird’s production in the attack has slowed a bit this season with one goal and two assists. Last year, he was named MLS Rookie of the Year after recording eight goals and five assists.
Even though the overall production is down, Baird’s overall play is much improved from this time a year ago and he believes part of that is a result of the daily competition between the attacking players at RSL.
“I think it’s fantastic; it makes sure no one can really be complacent especially everyday out here on the field. For me as a player, it’s pushing me to get better here but it’s also helping myself with the national team,” said Baird.Comment on this story
If Baird makes the 23-man roster, he will be away from Real Salt Lake for most of June. The United States plays friendlies against Jamaica and Venezuela on Jane 5 and 9, and then has Gold Cup group games against Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and then Panama on June 18, 22, and 26.
The knockout round continues after that until the Gold Cup final at Soldier Field in Chicago on July 7.
Real Salt Lake has a three-week break from June 1 to June 22 because of the Gold Cup, but Biard could still miss four matches after the break if he makes the squad and the United States advances to the final.