The "Curious" Case of Corey Baird
When you think of the name Corey Baird you might think of the words young, exciting, potential, explosive etc. Well, maybe time does go by quicker than we realize because those words were applicable to Corey back in 2018, not 2022.
Coming off of a spectacular rookie season for Real Salt Lake, the American winger was named the 2018 rookie of the year in MLS, tallying 8 goals and 5 assists in 31 appearances. Being a regular with the USYNT, Baird even got a couple of looks with the USMNT first team, getting 4 caps and 1 assist (so far). Needless to say, there was hype around the player that Corey Baird could potentially become. Unfortunately, progress is not linear and his career has hit a bit of a plateau.
The career of Corey Baird has been nothing less than a roller coaster to say the least. In 2020 RSL announced the long-term contract extension of their homegrown "prodigy". The head coach of RSL at that time, Freddy Juarez, held his praises high for Baird. "He’s a Homegrown and we take a lot of pride in that, but he’s also made a big difference for us and he’s a quality, versatile player. You go through a lot of situations throughout the year and we know we can always put a good lineup out because he is so versatile.” Juarez stressed Corey's versatility, having the ability to play winger and striker. He looked to be a piece for the present and the future for RSL.
Less than a year after his contract extension, LAFC acquired Corey for 500k USD. Spending less than a season in Los Angeles, Corey had 3G and 2A in 14 appearances, even scoring a goal against Houston early in the 2021 season in a 1-1 draw at PNC Stadium. Former Dynamo GM Matt Jordan sought to bring in Corey during the summer transfer window at any cost necessary. Thus, we saw the acquisition of Corey Baird from LAFC for 750k... AND an international spot. It is safe to say that LAFC walked away winners on this trade, regardless of what happens next for Corey Baird.
Arriving in 2021 Corey played a few games here and there but was ultimately injured for the majority of the remainder of the season. Still, fans were understanding and there was excitement surrounding his arrival, even if the hype was minimal. Baird ended the 2021 season with 7 appearances and 0G 0A.
Heading into the 2022 season, first year GM Pat Onstad handed the reigns of the right winger position to Corey Baird. Following the departure of former head coach Tab Ramos, Paulo Nagamura hoped to unlock the Corey Baird that won rookie of the year with RSL. Baird was a mainstay in Paulo's lineups, despite the 26 year old's lack of productivity down the wing.
With poor performances being as common as the sun rising in the east, it became glaringly evident that Corey Baird either 1) was still dealing with the lingering injury from the 2021 season, 2) lacked confidence, or 3) had issues playing under the directions of Nagamura. Whatever the reasons for his bad form, fans needed to blame somebody for how the season was going and Corey quickly became the target. The discontent associated with Baird was maybe accentuated by the fact that fans were fed up with years of neglect from the Dynamo, however; the displeasure with Corey constantly starting games despite his form was justified.
August 27th, 2022 the impossible happened. Corey Baird scores his first league goal for the dynamo after 23 appearances! In all fairness, the goal was superb. The weight had been lifted off the shoulders of a man that had never quite gotten his feet on the ground down here in HTOWN. Since his first league goal (Corey did score against SKC in the USOC earlier in the season which ended in a 2-1 loss for Houston and consequently saw the Dynamo kicked out of the competition) the reenergized winger has put up some spectacular performances. A big reason as to why Baird looks so much better is due to interim head coach Kenny Bundy. In fact, almost every player has individually improved since seeing the back of Nagamura. Corey registered 1 goal and 1 assist in 25 appearances for Nagamura as opposed to 2 assists and 1 goal AND an MLS TOTW appearance in just 3 appearances for Bundy.
Suddenly, the vibe has completely changed for Corey Baird and the question mark above his head on if we should resign him or not. Obviously, the bulk of the fan base waned him gone earlier in the season. Surprisingly, that notion has changed completely. With his rebirth under Kenny Bundy, Corey might have saved himself a job. While it is nice to see him in such good form, it is difficult to forgive the 20+ appearances where he was a liability in almost every way. If the Dynamo can somehow find a way to utilize Corey Baird in such a way that he performs like he has recently, I would like to keep him.
Given Corey Baird's up and down career, it is hard not to root for they guy. I am happy to see him doing so well and I hope he keeps his form up and maybe with a string of good performances to end the season, he could convince Pat Onstad to resign him.
As always, his has been Colin with Keeping Tabs here to make sure all tabs are kept. Be sure to go and follow me on twitter @keepingtabspod where I cover all things Dynamo. #HoldItDown