Sandy • Going up against Diego Valeri and the Portland Timbers on Saturday, Real Salt Lake center backs Justen Glad and Marcelo Silva constantly called out the MVP candidate’s position to the holding midfielders.

“Right shoulder. Left shoulder.”

Silva and Glad paired up Saturday for the first time since Silva had to leave the Montreal game on Aug. 19 with a hamstring injury. Their reunion in RSL’s 2-1 win suggested a bright future for RSL’s defense, grounded by that center back pairing.

When Silva, a summer transfer window acquisition, and Glad met for the first time just over two months ago Silva knew only a couple words of English, which made communication tricky. 

“They read each other very well now,” RSL coach Mike Petke said. “They’re both experienced players, even Justen being so young he’s very experienced already, and it grows by the week.”

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Petke often pairs the two together in practice, no matter the drill, to expedite the development of their relationship.

It has paid off so far. RSL kept back-to-back clean sheets, against Houston and D.C., before Silva went down. In his return Saturday, Real Salt Lake held Portland to a single goal to win 2-1.

“He’s such an aggressive player in the way he defends,” right back Tony Beltran said of Silva. “But he’s capable because he tends to put a lot of pressure on attackers and win the ball in a lot of good positions. … Justen, for how young he is, is a very smart player. So whether he’s playing with Dave [Horst], whether he’s playing with Marcelo, whomever, he understands the relationship that they need to have, the positioning, the tactical understanding that they need to have.”

Petke said he anticipates Silva and Glad’s partnership growing stronger in preseason next year.

Accountability

RSL has gone 6-2-3 since July 4 to move above the playoff line for the first time since April.

Improved heath and an adjustment to Petke’s style of play factored into the team’s turnaround. According to Beltran, there was a shift behind the scenes as well.

“Mike holds everyone to a high standard,” Beltran said. “He wants us all to hold each other accountable; he holds us accountable and I think he demands that kind of hard-nosed mentality from the group. That’s tactics aside. We needed to have a fire lit underneath us, we needed belief back in the locker room, and Mike has given us that.”

Playoff race

Houston (10-10-8) and Dallas (9-8-11) are tied in points with RSL, but both Texas teams have games in hand.

“It’s definitely an advantage for them, it’s what they do with those games,” Petke said. “So that’s why to have the results go the way they have the last two weekends for us has been ideal for us, and now hopefully they’re feeling a little pressure, who knows.”

RSL has just four games left in the season to hold onto a playoff spot. Houston and Dallas each have six league games left on their schedules.