HomeSports‘Dangerous’ teen phenom Caden Clark reenergizing Red Bulls
‘Dangerous’ teen phenom Caden Clark reenergizing Red Bulls
October 17, 2020
It didn’t take long for Caden Clark’s father to realize his kid had some special skills.
Playing in a youth soccer game in his native Minnesota at age 6, Caden scored so many goals that another kid’s father marched onto the pitch, kicked the ball away from Caden, picked him up and started to carry him off the field.
“I scored too many goals and I got pulled off the field by one of the dads,’’ Clark told The Post on Friday. “He literally picked me up and took me off the field, and my dad and him got into a huge physical fight.’’
If you don’t know who Caden Clark is yet, watch highlights from the last two Red Bulls matches.
The 17-year-old phenom, hours after signing his first professional contract with the big club and flying to Atlanta, scored the winning goal for the Red Bulls in a 1-0 win over the United last Saturday.
Then, Wednesday night against Toronto, the top team in MLS this season, Clark scored the equalizer in the 77th minute to secure a 1-1 draw.
Both goals were highlight-film blasts. The first was a right-footed volley off a corner kick that looked like it might shred the chords of the net. The second was a left-footed missile in traffic that hit the upper corner of the net with even more force.
When Clark scored that tying goal against Toronto, the reaction of Red Bulls veteran striker Danny Royer, who was making a run at goal from the left side, was priceless. Royer had both hands on his head in disbelief.
“When I saw it go top-corner into the goal, I had my hands on my head like, ‘What the hell is going on?’ ’’ Royer told The Post. “I was absolutely amazed. It was a sick goal, just a class goal. I was just amazed and really happy for the kid.’’
In short time, the kid has energized what had been an inconsistent and lethargic Red Bulls attack. The Red Bulls have had trouble scoring goals this season, the same way the Jets and Giants have had trouble scoring touchdowns.
“He’s dangerous, he’s definitely a weapon, and he’s given us a boost of energy,’’ Royer said.
It’s a shame fans aren’t allowed into Red Bull Arena because of COVID-19 restrictions, because Sunday against Orlando will be Clark’s first home game with the big club, and he’s a show worth seeing.
Red Bulls interim coach Bradley Carnell, after the Toronto match, called Clark “a kid playing high right now — high on life and high on the energy of making his debut, and things are falling into place.’’
“He has certain qualities. When all of this comes together and the kid has a chuckle in his boots … there’s wonders that can happen.’’
The Red Bulls are in seventh place in the MLS Eastern Conference with a 7-8-3 record. The top 10 teams in the conference make the playoffs. The hope is that Clark can keep this magical run going and propel the Red Bulls to greater heights than they thought possible before he arrived.
“With goals like that in your first two appearances, I think there is something special there,’’ Royer said.
“We’ve had to pinch ourselves, to be honest,’’ Clark’s father, Chris, said. “We weren’t expecting this to happen as quickly as it has.’’
Clark played 12 matches with Red Bulls II, the USL team, scoring three goals and five assists before signing that contract with the big club, hours before last Saturday’s match in Atlanta.
His father, who’s a performance coach, has spent time in New Jersey helping to train Clark. Some of what they do is watch film cut-ups of international superstar Lionel Messi.
“We watch his vision, short passing, finishing, assists and his off-the-ball movement,’’ Chris Clark said. “We also talk about his soccer IQ and his joy and passion for the game.’’
That joy and passion is present in Caden Clark’s game.
The Red Bulls acquired Clark’s MLS rights from Minnesota United FC for $75,000. It might be the best $75,000 spent by a New York sports team this year.
What a week for the teenager who never has gone to high school and had to have his godmother move from Minnesota to Morristown, N.J., to live with him because, as a minor, he cannot live on his own.
“Life comes at you fast,’’ Clark said. “It’s been a dream start, for sure. I’m trying to enjoy every moment I can. I just want to keep going and see what happens.’’
If he keeps doing what he did in his first two matches, you might see opposing MLS coaches doing what that out-of-line soccer dad tried to do when Clark was 6 years old.