The more things change, the more they stay the same. Houston Dynamo forward/midfielder Corey Baird came to Houston looking for a new lease on his soccer life. He might just have found it under interim head coach Kenny Bundy.
Baird, the former Rookie of the Year following his signing with Real Salt Lake in 2018 had fallen on tough times. The young forward fresh off a great run as a Stanford Cardinal scored eight goals and tallied five assists in his first professional season. In his sophomore season, he added five more goals and five more assists and it looked like he was well on his after signing a contract extension coming into 2020.
A year later after a COVID shortened season, Baird was on the move. The trade looked to be good for RSL who gained a cool half million in General Allocation money, an international roster spot and future considerations. It also appeared good for the Galaxy who already had Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi which meant Baird would not be a primary scoring option. Unfortunately for him Vela and Rossi were injured and Baird was now expected to fill the gap without the tools to get him the ball. Less than a half season in, LAFC shipped him off to Houston.
Former Houston general manager Matt Jordan paid $750,000 in General Allocation Money and an international roster spot for Baird barely halfway through the 2021 season. Baird arrived with a lot of expectations on a Dynamo club going nowhere fast. In 28 appearances prior to Bundy's installation as interim head coach, Baird had two goals across all competitions.
Enter Bundy and a resurgence of Baird's career and outlook. In his last appearances, he has a goal, two assists, taken five shots with three on target and earned a place on the MLSSoccer.com Team of the Week.
“I couldn't tell you exactly," said Baird about why things are clicking these last three games under Bundy. "I think I’ve just been working hard all year and I'm getting my chance right now and I'm trying to do the best I can with it.”
Like all good goal scorers, Baird knows it's about opportunities. Opportunities to not only play but to be in the right offensive scheme.
“I think it's something we've been working on where if we can win the ball higher of the field, teams are obviously going to be more spread out. LAFC is definitely an expansive team where they want to get their backs higher up the field, so in that transition moment, there's lots of space and (MF) Coco (Carrasquilla) does it so well, where he wins so many balls in there. And when we play for it after that there's a lot of space for us attackers to go into. And I think our attack will thrive more in those fast breaks with more space," continued Baird.
Bundy left little doubt of what he thinks of Baird and why he is playing so well.
“You have to highlight Corey’s attributes," explained Bundy. "What makes him the best, what makes what makes the best Corey Baird. You have to look at what he does on the field, and you can't just look at you know certain games and certain moments and go, Okay, well he's this or he's that. You know, Corey’s movement off the ball is next level. Like, his movement off the ball is so great. But it's the job of other players to find that movement. And I think listen, if we're going to talk about Corey Baird, we've got to talk about Coco (MF Coco Carrasquilla). And if we're going to talk about Coco then I think we have to talk about Darwin Quinteroand then we have to talk about Sebas’ (FW Sebastián Ferreira) movement, and we have to talk about Fafa’s (FW Fafa Picault) movement. Because the one thing that we try to do is highlight their skill sets."
Baird and the Dynamo hope the results continue for the final two games of 2022 and well into the 2023 season.