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Sandy • The moment of clarity Justen Glad had been waiting for finally arrived during a training session in Japan.
The 20-year-old Real Salt Lake center back was close to overcoming a leg injury that put not only his 2017 season in doubt, but also his U-20 World Cup dreams on hold.
The last step in this monotonous recovery process, in his mind, was to get a good tackle in.
So the rangy 6-foot-2 center back dropped down and won the ball with the outside of his right foot in training, utilizing every portion of the right leg that three months prior was left hobbled after helping the U.S. U-20 national team achieve history.
"After that happened," Glad said, "I was all-in mentally. I knew my body was ready to go."
Worries over the injury a ruptured anterior ligament of the fibular head in his right leg vanished. After the tackle, Glad waited a week and a half to return to action for the first time since suffering the injury in early March as the U-20s won the CONCACAF Championship for the first time ever.
As the U.S. led Senegal 1-0 in the 84th minute of its second group-stage match, Glad waited to sub on. He sprinted to help the Americans see out a lead. With his 2017 status no longer out of reach, RSL's best defender took in a deep sigh of relief.
"Even after the game ended, I got back to my room and I couldn't fall asleep," he said. "I still had a lot of energy built up from finally being back, and being able to say that, 'I'm back and ready to go.' "
Glad and the three other RSL first-teamers who helped push the U.S. U-20s to the quarterfinal round of the World Cup are back with their club team now.
Of the myriad of issues plaguing RSL in its 4-10-2 start to the season, missing Glad's presence on the back line nearly tops the list. The RSL academy product rose to become the team's most essential defender in 2016, making 27 starts and developing into an indispensable asset.
"It's been great finally getting him out to practice and having him in the group," RSL captain Kyle Beckerman said. "It's going to help."
Glad's injury in the CONCACAF Championship came just a few days after RSL's season opener. As RSL prepares for its U.S. Open Cup match Wednesday at Sacramento Republic FC and its return to league play Saturday at home against Minnesota United, it does so with Glad, thankfully, back in the fold.
RSL coach Mike Petke recently joked with his staff, explaining how excited he was to coach Glad at full capacity. Since taking over in late March, Petke hasn't had the luxury of working with the club's youngest and most-promising center back.
"It's important for Justen to keep going, because he's done well with the U-20s and he's back to a spot where he can't have any dips now and he needs to keep pushing himself," Petke said.
After subbing on in the last two U-20 World Cup group stage matches, Glad started the Round of 16 rout over New Zealand, scoring a goal and registering an assist in the 6-0 win. He earned another start in the 2-1 extra time loss to Venezuela in the quarterfinal round. He calls the World Cup experience no surprise one of the best he's had to date.
Glad is also finally ready to shift his focus now, too. RSL needs all the help it can get at the moment.
"Obviously we're kind of in a rut right now," he said, "and I think if I can come back and kind of help elevate the team and do my part, I think that'd be awesome for me and the club to kind of get the morale where it needs to be."
Glad said he and lifelong friends and U-20 teammates Brooks Lennon, Sebastian Saucedo and Danny Acosta are determined to help kickstart a much-needed turnaround.
"Whatever it is, we're going to put our bodies on the line and do whatever needs to be done to get a 'W,' " he said.
About Justen Glad
Age » 20
Position » Center back
Hometown » Tucson, Ariz.
Pro career » Real Salt Lake (2014-present)
Games played » Glad started 27 matches and made 28 regular-season appearances in 2016, scoring two goals and notching one assist.
Time missed » After suffering right leg injury with U-20s in March, Glad has missed RSL's first 16 matches of 2017
Time missed » Made four appearances, including two starts at the FIFA U-20 World Cup with the U.S. U-20 national team
U.S. Open Cup
RSL at Sacramento Republic
Wednesday, 8:30 p.m.
TV • None