Caden Clark: A teenager trained in Barcelona ready to take on the MLS – and Europe – storm
If you need to remember how young Caden Clark is, ask him what he thought of attacking football.
There is no filter, only pure excitement. He talks about moving the ball, doing that key, scoring amazing goals like they saw on display at the end of the MLS season.
His voice is vivid as he describes what he wants to do with the defense and how he intends to do it.
But despite being young, he has nothing to do with the 17-year-old New York Red Bulls star playing in the game. There is no maturity, no unnecessary movement.
There is, however, a certain determination, a certain mentality, that already distinguishes him from one of the best young football players in America.
That mentality was revealed when he scored the winning goal to mark his MLS debut. He showed for sure when he scored a goal against Toronto FC four days later, and that was where the Red Bulls were definitely the last MLS Cup playoff champions against the Columbus Crew.
Ask Clarki who he is as a player and what he wants to be, and he will give you a quick answer.
“It’s an easy answer for me,” he told Goal. “I think it’s very easy, but it comes with a lot of things. Just being a killer. I want to be a killer in the last third. I always want to be someone who attacks.
“I’m excited to talk about it, because I know I can do it. It’s not a trustworthy thing either; it realizes when it needs to be done.
“Being a killer in the last third. Turning to people. The worst thing that can happen is that you’re going to lose and, Red Bulls, we’re going to hit it. So I think it’s the best place to do things.”
Clark has only played eight MLS career games since joining the Red Bulls II main team after a MLS-centric transfer saga with Minnesota United, and that killer instinct is already clear.
His first goal was an amazing volley inside the area when Clark hit Atlanta United on the same day he signed the first team to kick the Red Bulls lead.
Four days later, he took another step, firing a 30-year-old missile into the upper corner, to show that his first target was far from miserable.
And then there was the goal of the playoffs, as Clark scored against the Crew team on the biggest stage to date.
“It was really nice to align everything,” he says. “When I signed Dennis Hamlett, our sporting director, before boarding the flight to Atlanta, he said to me,‘ You’re starting tomorrow, you know the game plan, so you just got to win the goal. ’I think it was ironic.
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“It didn’t change much after that. I was still playing how I played now. Of course, it’s kind of boosting confidence. Anyway, I guess, in the next game in Toronto, I don’t think I’m playing that shot I didn’t get into before the game. Things like that I think the little ones have changed, but overall, as a player, I’m the same. “
And those moments are on the radar of the biggest clubs in Europe. Clark is expected to move to RB Leipzig when he turns 18 in 2022, with Tyler Adams taking the leap from New York to Germany following in Tyler Adams ’footsteps.
It’s one of the reasons he chose to sign with the Red Bulls team, which is known for developing some of the best young players MLS-produced over the last decade.
But Clark’s path to MLS, and especially to the Red Bulls, was winding, and he never intended to embark on it.
The midfielder grew up in Minnesota, a state far from the football field until he joined Minnesota United a few years ago.
Since he was more talented than his classmates from an early age, Clark formed a regular age group that initially started at the under-13 level when he was just 9 years old. Eventually, he joined the Minnesota Thunder Academy. .
While playing for an age group, Clarki was given tough lessons. Because he was physically smaller than almost every player who played against him, he could not win at a pace or force. Instead, he had to think about it if he wanted to overcome them.
And it was in those moments that he began to become an actor. It idolizes Kevin De Bruyne and Bruno Fernandes, two players who won not only with their feet but also with their intelligence. They always do simple theater, he says, but they look really good.
That’s the player Clark wants: not just the kind who can open up the defense with that last ball, but the kind who sees the ball develop long before he leaves his feet.
“When I was young I had a good experience playing against physical players,” he says. “It teaches me how to play without being so physical because I couldn’t hang out with these guys. I was 12 and I’m 14. It’s a big gap, a huge gap and your important term is growth.
“So it was just a guess, if I can’t run next to them and you have to challenge them to get the balls, you have to choose your moments.”
Eventually, Clark found out when it was time to organize his professional career, and he sat down with his father to evaluate his options. He was judged with FC Dallas, without success. It wasn’t right, he says, and both sides decided it wasn’t the right move for them.
“He doesn’t hate FC Dallas at all,” he says. “But they were playing a box in the middle of the field, and I didn’t know how to play and I was like, ‘What the hell is this?’
“I talked to Luchi [Gonzalez] he said he didn’t think I was the best fit for them, and I said that was perfectly fine. “
Next stop? The Academy of Barcelona in Arizona offered him the opportunity to train at the La Masia Academy around the world. That trip to Spain, Clark, was ruled out in one of the only national team camps called at the time, but it helped open his eyes to see what needed to be done to play in Europe.
And along the way, at the time, no MLS was included. Clark knew that joining an MLS club could limit his chances in Europe when his 18th birthday came. Signing a contract with MLS would tie you in and perhaps open up transfer issues if a team were priced for a dream move.
But then came the Red Bulls, who were not only ready to develop the Clark team, but also ready to move when the time was right
“If I was 16 and waiting to go to Europe at 18, without MLS, it was time to go play USL,” he says. “How far can I go until USL turns 18? We were talking about Phoenix Rising through a relationship with Barca Academy, and then I hope to go to Barca when I’m 18. But I didn’t think that was the best situation for me.
“Analyzing what Red Bull had to offer at all levels, we compared it to other MLS clubs I was watching and it was the best offer in every aspect I could ask for. That was the decision.
“I was at a time when I had to join an MLS club because I wouldn’t have improved in those two years if I hadn’t competed at that next level.”
Soon, Clark will take things to an even higher level. He is already on the radar of the U.S. men’s national team, although he doesn’t look much like a youngster in his name. It was on the previous list The U.S. U23 team failed to qualify for the Olympics and, despite not completing the final team, he hopes to play with more international opportunities in the coming years.
He will turn 18 in May, and when that day arrives, he will surely be looking to Europe, becoming the next in a long line of young stars to roam the Red Bull Pipeline.
Perhaps he will follow in the footsteps of Erling Haaland, Sadio Mane or Timo Werner as he uses Red Bull as a starting point for the world’s elite. Whatever the next showstopper for teens, Clark is ready to show what a killer he can be with the ball on his next foot.
“I’m not the most natural person there is, but I would try to use my other assets to fill that gap,” he says. “I don’t want to get into a thousand regattas.
“I’m a player who likes to sit in my pocket and find those gaps and passages and play those one-touch passes that will really open up my opponent, and you go from there.
“I want to put pressure and compact on opponents in certain situations, and then the rest of the games are open. These little plays are being done on the field.
“That’s what I really like: just opening up the team. I enjoy finding good gaps, finding good passes and being very smart with my movement. If I get the ball, okay, it’s opening a path for my teammate.
“That side of football, that’s what I really like and I’m the best at it.”