Caden Clark: “The whole team and coaching staff gave me trust and confidence going into this game and that really helped me a lot.” (Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
You only get one time to make a first impression and Caden Clark certainly made the most of his opportunity Saturday night.
In his first game as a Red Bull, the 17-year-old midfielder scored the lone goal in a 1-0 victory over Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Now, how’s that for a first impression?
“As I said to the boys in the locker room, just how we drew it up,” Red Bulls interim head coach Bradley Carnell said with a laugh. “No, seriously, we know what a special talent he is. We’ve seen it throughout the USL.”
Before the Red Bulls acquired Clark’s rights from Minnesota United in exchange for $75,000 in General Allocation Money, he played for Red Bulls II this past USL Championship season in his first pro season. He played 12 games, scoring three goals and finishing with a team-leading five assist.
“We know he has certain qualities and it makes it interesting with our style of play,” Carnell told reporters afterwards. “First and foremost, he’s a Red Bull player. He’s a Red Bull philosophy player. Plays our way, runs our way, and is hungry in our way.
“So yeah, sometimes these things happen this way. The first half it took him five, ten minutes to get into the groove of what now the MLS is all about, but then he found the groove, started picking up spots, started making passes, started making plays, and his confidence grew.”
Clark said he “was really excited” when he discovered he was part of the travel squad Friday.
“The whole team and coaching staff gave me trust and confidence going into this game and that really helped me a lot,” he said.
Especially in the 47th minute. That’s when captain Sean Davis’ corner kick was cleared out of the six-yard box. The ball went to Clark, who drilled a shot from atop the penalty area into the goal past goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
“The goal just fell right to me and was fortunate to hit it in the right spot,” Clark said. “The team played great defensively, everyone worked hard and it was a great team win. Now we go again with training tomorrow.”
Added Carnell: “The first half it took him five, ten minutes to get into the groove of what now the MLS is all about, but then he found the groove, started picking up spots, started making passes, started making plays, and his confidence grew.”
Before he even could play with the Red Bulls, Clark needed to go through a 10-day quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was able to get three training sessions in with the team,” he said. “It helped out a lot to get those sessions in by creating relationships with my teammates and I think it was really important to get those sessions in just to get to know the guys.””