Caden Clark (37) battles for the ball against Toronto FC defender Omar Gonzalez (44) . (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
We’re trying to figure out what’s more impressive about Caden Clark:
Whether it his poise on the field to make good things happen for the Red Bulls or the way he comports himself off the pitch.
Let’s start with the hard facts:
In Saturday’s Red Bulls’ 2-0 home win over Toronto FC, the midfielder helped set up the first goal and tallied the second at Red Bull Arena.
On the first goal in the 32nd minute Clark dispossessed a Toronto midfielder in the offensive third and swung his pass to Fabio inside the penalty area. Fabio controlled the pass with his back to the net and sent a pass to the top of the box for Amaya. Amaya beat goalkeeper Alex Bono to the near post.
In the 69th minute Dru Yearwood sent a through ball into the box for Fabio, who dribbled into Bono to create a loose ball. Clark ran in tapped home the ball.
A pretty good haul by anyone in any professional league, a damn good one by a 17-year-old who is heading to Europe much sooner than later.
And oh yeah, he has a team-high three goals and an assist this season in four appearances, a damn good haul by any player.
During the postgame Zoom press conference with the media, Clark sounded like a grizzled veteran who knew himself, his strengths, weaknesses and where he needs to improve.
Cases in point:
* When asked how he has improved in his first full season as a professional, Clark answered, “I think you just have to go through it, go through the struggle and go through messing up on easy things. You just have to experience it and grow from it. Like last year, I realized myself that I would lose the ball off of like little stupid things that you should really not ever be losing the ball off of, just simple mistakes.
“I think for me, just learning and going through that has helped me this year, to clean them up, and sometimes I still make them, but just progressing as a player, just learning from them. You just really have to experience it to grow off of it.”
* When asked about if he was getting comfortable as the season has moved on, Clark replied, “For example in the Galaxy game, wasn’t in the box enough, wasn’t being aggressive going forward, and he [head coach Gerhard Struber] told me that, straight up. I learned from that, and I think getting in the box has to be my job. Whether I’m at the eight, in the 10, it’s huge for my game to get in the box. You never know what’s going to happen.”
It’s happening for Caden Clark, all right and he could be happening for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga after this MLS season, if reports are correct.
In fact, here’s a message for all Red Bulls’ fans:
Enjoy him while you can. Before you know it, he will be gone before you know it.