How RSL defender Justen Glad has grown and how he wants to leave his mark on Utah

Glad signed a multiyear extension Monday and is entering his eighth season with RSL in 2021.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Real Salt Lake defender Justen Glad (15) sends the ball downfield as Real Salt Lake hosts Columbus Crew SC, in MLS Soccer at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah on Wed, July 3, 2019.

When Justen Glad joined Real Salt Lake in 2014, he was a different person. He was only 17. Immature. More shy. Less muscular. Less developed as a soccer player. It was so long ago, reminiscing on that time in his career has become a bit difficult.

“You look back and kind of think, ‘Where did the time even go?’” Glad said Monday during a videoconference with media. “I don’t know how those years went by so quick.”

Glad, now nearing 24, has played seven seasons with RSL. He’s played more than 100 games in Major League Soccer. He’s grown — not just as a soccer player, but as a man.

And he’s looking to grow even more more after RSL announced Monday that he signed a contract extension that will keep him with the club through 2024. Earlier this offseason, the club exercised his option for the 2021 season.

“Justen is a proven high-level starter in this league and at 23 years old has significant room for growth as well,” RSL general manager Elliot Fall said in a statement. “We are thrilled to have him on board long-term and see him continue to cement himself as a leader in our locker room.”

Glad’s re-signing is significant on two fronts. First, RSL keeps yet another of its core pieces that has proven invaluable in recent years. The team had already re-signed Aaron Herrera, Damir Kreilach and Pablo Ruiz to multiyear extension within the last 12 months.

Glad said that while those were getting done, he at times wondered when would be his turn. But he said the team’s management had been in contact with him about an extension, saying they would get to it.

“I was just kind of waiting for that and they got to it,” Glad said. “So here we are.”

RSL getting Glad for another few years also helps from a leadership standpoint. As a player entering his eighth season with the team, Glad — although still young in age — is one of the longest tenured players. And now that Kyle Beckerman and Nedum Onuoha have retired, he is one of the people expected to take on an expanded leadership role.

Glad said he had discussions with Fall, coach Freddy Juarez and assistant general manager Tony Beltran about expressing himself more with his words. That type of leadership, he said, comes naturally to him, but wasn’t as necessary as it might be now.

“I think it does come naturally, but it was easy to stay silent when you had guys who were such good leaders like [Beckerman] and like [Onuoha] who were always going to speak their mind, who were thoughtful and they knew what they were talking about,” Glad said. “So you kind of deferred to them. And now there’s a gap that’s there.”

Glad is one of several players on the current roster who got his start in the RSL Academy and ended up on the first team. Others include Aaron Herrera, Corey Baird, Tate Schmitt and David Ochoa. Including regular season and playoffs in Major League Soccer, he’s started 123 of the 130 games he’s played.

“We think he’s one of the top center backs in the league and has a ton of experience already at a young age,” Juarez said in a statement. “He’s still continuing to grow — he gets better every year.”

Glad said RSL means the world to him. He’s matured in Salt Lake City, a place he calls home, and raised two dogs. He’s seen the club at its highest highs and lowest lows. He’s excited and honored to be part of the next phase of the organization’s history that will come with new ownership, he said, and wants to leave his mark on Utah the way another RSL legend has.

“You look and you see what Kyle [Beckerman] has done in the community and on the field, and that’s a great person for me to look up to and try and emulate,” Glad said. “So to be somewhere near or try to be what he is to Utah, that’s my aspiration.”