Caden Clark: Barcelona-trained teen ready to take MLS — and Europe — by storm

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If you want a reminder of simply how younger Caden Clark is, ask him about his ideas on attacking soccer.

There is no filter there, simply pure pleasure. He speaks about shifting the ball, making that key cross, scoring surprise objectives like those that noticed him burst onto the scene on the tail finish of the MLS season.

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His voice perks up as he describes precisely what he desires to do to defenses and how he plans to do it.

But, regardless of how younger he’s, there’s nothing childlike about the best way the 17-year-old New York Red Bulls star performs the sport. There is no immaturity, no unnecessary motion.

There is, although, a sure willpower, a sure mentality that has already differentiated him from lots of the finest younger gamers in American soccer.

That mentality was evident when he scored a game-winning objective to mark his MLS debut. It positive was on show when he scored once more 4 days later towards Toronto FC, and it was undoubtedly there when he scored the Red Bulls’ lone objective of their MLS Cup playoff run towards the eventual champions, the Columbus Crew.

Ask Clark who he’s as a participant and what he desires to be, and he’s fast to provide you with a solution.

“It’s a simple answer for me,” he tells Goal. “I think it’s kind of simple but it comes with a lot of things. Just being a killer. I just want to be a killer in the final third. I want to be someone that’s just always attacking.

“I get excited simply speaking about it, as a result of I do know I can do it. It’s not even a confidence factor; it is simply realizing when to do it.

“Just being a killer in the final third. Just going at people. The worst thing that’s going to happen is you’re going to lose it and, us Red Bulls, we press. So I think that’s the best place to do things.”

Clark has performed simply eight profession MLS video games, having joined the Red Bulls’ senior group from Red Bulls II following an MLS-centric switch saga involving Minnesota United, and that killer intuition is already clear.

His first objective was a surprising volley from simply contained in the field as Clark pounced towards Atlanta United to hearth the Red Bulls into the lead on the identical day he signed for the primary group.

Four days later, he took it a step additional, firing a 30-year missile into the highest nook to present that his first objective was removed from a fluke.

And then there was the playoff objective, the place Clark scored towards the Crew on the largest stage on whhe has featured to date.

“It was really cool that it all lined up,” he says. “Dennis Hamlett, our sporting director, when I signed, before we got on the flight to Atlanta, he said, ‘You’re starting tomorrow, you know the game plan, so just score the winning goal for us’. I think it was kind of ironic that it turned out.

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“It did not actually change a lot after that. I nonetheless performed how I play now. Of course, it is a confidence booster it doesn’t matter what. I assume, the following sport Toronto, I do not assume I’m hitting that shot if I did not rating the sport earlier than. I believe little issues like which have modified, however total, me as a participant, I’m the identical.”

And it is those moments that have him on the radar of Europe’s biggest clubs. Clark is expected to move to RB Leipzig when he turns 18 in 2022, following in the footsteps of Tyler Adams in making the leap from New York to Germany. 

It is one of the reasons he chose to sign with the Red Bulls, a club notorious for developing some of the best young players MLS has produced over the last decade.

But Clark’s road to MLS, and to the Red Bulls in particular, was a winding one, and one he never planned on embarking on in the first place. 

The midfielder grew up in Minnesota, a state that was far from a soccer hotspot until the introduction of Minnesota United just a few years ago.

Already more talented than his peers from a young age, Clark routinely played up an age group, initially starting at the Under-13s level when he was just 9. He eventually joined the Minnesota Thunder Academy, where he remained for most of his youth career.

While playing up an age group, Clark was taught several harsh lessons. Since he was physically smaller than virtually every player he played against, he could not beat them with pace or strength. Instead, he had to outthink them if he wanted to outplay them.

And it was in those moments that he began to develop into a playmaker. He idolizes Kevin De Bruyne and Bruno Fernandes, two players that beat defenses not just with their feet but with their minds. They always make the simple play, he says, but they make it look so damn good.

That is the player Clark wants to be: not just the type that can open up a defense with that final ball, but the type that saw that pass developing long before the ball left his feet.

“I used to be getting good expertise at a younger age of enjoying towards bodily gamers,” he says. “It form of teaches me how I want to play the sport with out being so bodily as a result of I could not dangle with these guys. I used to be like 12 and they’re 14. It’s a giant hole, enormous, and an necessary interval of your progress.

“So it was kind of just figuring out, if I can’t run beside them and challenge for balls, you have to just pick your moments.”

Eventually, it acquired to some extent the place Clark knew that it was time to plan for his skilled profession, and he sat down together with his father to assess his choices. He trialed with FC Dallas, unsuccessfully. It was not a superb match, he says, and either side determined that it was not the fitting transfer for them. 

“No hate on FC Dallas at all,” he says. “But they were playing a box in the midfield, and I just didn’t know how to play it and was like, ‘What the hell is this?’

“I talked to Luchi [Gonzalez] after he mentioned that he did not assume I used to be the perfect match for them, and I mentioned that was completely advantageous.”

His next stop? The Barcelona academy in Arizona, which offered him the opportunity to train at the world-famous La Masia academy. That trip to Spain actually ruled Clark out of one of the few national team camps he had been called up to at that point, but it did help open his eyes to see what needed to be done to play in Europe.

And that path, at the time, did not include MLS. Clark knew that joining an MLS club could limit his opportunities in Europe when his 18th birthday rolled around. Signing a contract in MLS would tie him down and perhaps open up transfer issues if a team priced him out of a dream move.

But then came the Red Bulls, a team that was willing to not just develop Clark but also move him when the time was right

“I used to be 16 and I used to be at some extent the place if I wait to go to Europe at 18, MLS-free, I can go play within the USL,” he says. “How far can the USL push me till I’m 18? We have been speaking about Phoenix Rising by means of a relationship with the Barca Academy and then hopefully go over to Barca when I’m 18. But I simply did not assume that was the perfect scenario for me.

“Looking at what Red Bull had to offer at every level, we compared it with other MLS clubs I was looking at and it was just the best overall offer from every aspect that I could have asked for. That was the decision.

“I used to be at some extent the place I wanted to be part of an MLS membership as a result of I wasn’t going to get higher in these two years if I did not compete at that subsequent degree.”

Pretty quickly, Clark could also be taking issues to a fair greater degree. He is already on the U.S. males’s nationwide group radar, regardless of not having many youth appearances to his identify. He was on the preliminary roster for the U.S. U23 team that failed to qualify for the Olympics and, regardless of not making the ultimate squad, is hoping to play his approach into extra worldwide alternatives within the years to come.

He turns 18 in May, and when that day comes he will almost certainly be looking toward Europe, becoming the next in a long line of young stars to make their way through the Red Bull pipeline.

Maybe he follows in the footsteps of Erling Haaland, Sadio Mane or Timo Werner in using Red Bull as a springboard into the world’s elite. But no matter what is next for the teenage showstopper, Clark is ready for his next chance to show off what a killer he can be with the ball at his feet.

“I’m not probably the most bodily particular person on the market, however I’d strive to use my different belongings to fill that hole,” he says. “I do not need to get right into a thousand tackles.

“I’m form of a participant that likes to sit within the pocket and discover gaps and passing lanes and play these one-touch passes that can actually open up the opponent, and then you definately go from there.

“I want the opponents to pressure me in certain situations and get compact, and then the rest of game is open. It’s making these small little plays on the field.

“That’s what I actually take pleasure in: simply opening up groups. I take pleasure in discovering good gaps, good passes and simply being actually good with my motion. If I get the ball, OK, it is opening up a lane for my teammate.

“That side of soccer, that’s what I really enjoy and that’s what I’m best at.”

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