Herriman • When Corey Baird receives news that he will join the United States Men’s National Team for camps or other types of call-ups, the first people he notifies are those closest to him. His mother, father and brother get the first text messages, followed by his best friends on Real Salt Lake and back home.
Baird said his parents are still excited any time he tells them he’s been chosen for something related to the national team. So it stands to reason that they felt the exact same way when Baird was named to the provisional 40-man roster on Monday for this summer’s Gold Cup.
The final 23-man roster will be announced in the coming weeks, which tempered Baird’s reaction to the news.
“Still work to be done [to] hopefully make another 23-man roster — get the actual call-up,” Baird said Tuesday after training. “But it’s nice to get some recognition, nice to know I’m still on the radar."
Baird said consistent minutes and this cumulative Major League Soccer experience thus far have allowed him to continually be in the running for time with the USMNT. He added that competition for playing time with RSL has kept him sharp.
“For me as a player, it’s pushing me to get better here, it’s improving me here,” Baird said, “but then it’s also helping me with my chance with the national team.”
Coach Mike Petke hopes Baird makes the final 23-man roster, and ventured a guess that last season’s rookie of the year will be part of it.
“He’s earned that,” Petke said of Baird.
Sebastian Saucedo said Baird’s success with the national team could potentially open the door to RSL’s other young players, including himself, to get the attention of the USMNT. But for now, Saucedo said, he is focusing on his club.
“Main focus for me now is the team — RSL,” Saucedo said. “If the national team decides to come and give me an opportunity, I would be more than glad to take an opportunity.”
Sam Johnson still adjusting to RSL’s culture
RSL’s newest striker was benched in the team’s win over Toronto FC because he was 20 minutes late to a team meeting. A few weeks ago, he made public comments saying his teammates had to trust him more, and later apologized to the team for making them.
All that has been part of Johnson’s integration in the culture Petke wants to build within RSL. Because Johnson is still new to the team, the league and the country, Petke said there is usually a “grace period” for those types of players.
“There were things that he recognizes that weren’t the right route to go,” Petke said. “Good conversations with him and then you move on.”
Johnson said things have been a bit difficult for him since he arrived in Salt Lake, but he is trying to “deal with it” and feels he’s getting there “step by step.” When asked about missing the team meeting and his subsequent benching, he focused on the fact that the team won a game.
“OK, I know a lot of people only care about me being late, but they don’t care what happened,” Johnson said. “So I just allow it to go and focus on what is in front of me and let that go. I’m not going to tell people what made me late.”
RSL vs. ATLANTA UNITED
At Rio Tinto Stadium
When • Friday, 7 p.m.
TV • KMYU