When New York Red Bulls II signed Caden Clark it was seen as major coup for the club. The highest rated midfielder yet to sign a pro contract, per Top Drawer Soccer, it was a major recruiting win for a Red Bulls organization, whose production of young talent has lagged behind some rivals of late. It was also those rivals as well as other teams such as Portland Timbers and Clark’s hometown club Minnesota United that the Red Bulls beat to secure Clark’s signature. Now settled in New Jersey, the Wayzata, Minnesota native is ready to kick off his professional career and continue putting in the hard work that got him here.
Caden first started playing soccer at the age of 3. However, it wasn’t because soccer was the family sport. His dad, Chris, was a track runner and played basketball and his mom, Stacie, was a tennis player. Instead, it was the relative safety of soccer compared to biggest sports in the state, hockey and football.
“I started playing soccer at three years old. My dad got me into it and I think he picked it because it wasn’t the most dangerous sport. Compared to football and hockey.”
While Clark emerged as an elite prospect at Barça Residency Academy in Arizona, he began his development academy career with the Minnesota Thunder Academy. While with the Thunder he frequently played up an age group which not only helped his ability on the field but also his development as a human off the field. Playing up forced him to up his maturity levels, something that stood out immediately to his current coach John Wolyniec.
“You can tell that he was playing the game that he loves and it’s not just a, you know, kick around type of love for the game. He’s intense about it and extremely mature for his age. And a lot of ways he reminds me of Tyler [Adams] like that. You could tell when we saw him first at 16 and, now being 17, he’s just a really mature singularly focused individual.”John Wolyniec on the talent of Caden Clark.
The summer of 2017 was when Clark started to think about taking things to a higher level. It was in this summer when he received his first youth national team call up, an Under-14 camp. It was also the summer he joined Barça Academy. Clark decision to leave home was spurred by a desire to join a more professional set up. Barça offered that while providing the freedom that not being attached to a MLS academy provides.
While most players at Barça are scouted and recruited prior to joining the program, this was not the case for Clark. Despite not being scouted it didn’t take long for him to impress and be offered a spot on the Under-15 team after standing out during the camp he was attending.
“Caden attended a 3-day tryout camp in July 2017 before our inaugural 2017/18 season. He was with Minnesota Thunder Academy at the time. We liked a lot of things about him and identified him as one of the top guys and potential leaders for our U15 Academy team. In the sessions that weekend he showcased good decision making, was good at finding space and pockets between the lines, high passing completion rate and very few turnovers. He was obviously a very good athlete already at 14 years old and was making a lot of good runs behind the back line as a 10. He scored a couple of good goals that weekend too. He showed glimpses of a lot of the things you can see today: an intelligent player, very smooth on the ball in possession with the athleticism that enables him to impact the play on both sides of the ball.”Miha Kline, Barça Residency Academy Director of Recruiting and Soccer Operations, on Caden Clark’s early potential.
Knowing the work he put in and earning a spot despite not being recruited or scouted in advance enforced for Caden the importance of hard work.
“Me being on trial and making it just shows that you have to just keep working hard, no matter who is there, whose on the team, if they are better than you or not to keep working. And, you know, just working hard and working smart as well. That’s that’s what’s gonna get you far. You have to do extra than what everyone else is doing. You know, it has to be the right extra things, I think, that’s going to stick with me through my career.”
Joining New York Red Bulls
After the fall season ended, Clark decided it was time to take the next step in his development and move into a fully professional set up. For Clark one of the biggest positives for him when choosing New York was the track record of developing players. The decision was all about soccer with many of the things young players think about such as proximity to home not factoring in. Clark credits the experience living in a residency academy with Barça for easing the process.
“Being away from my family wasn’t a factor in this because I easily could have went home, live with my family for the next two years and get an apartment or something, but you know, me being in that Barça academy, environment really eased that process”Caden Clark on moving away from home
Another factor that helped pull Caden to the Red Bulls was Academy director Sean McCafferty. Sean was the Academy director at Barca Academy prior to joining New York. It was there where he coached Caden and where he pushed Caden up an age level, and gave him the freedom to work on his game in some of the biggest matches. Having someone he has known at the club and that he can trust no matter what was a plus in the Red Bulls favor.
What to Expect From Caden Clark
On the field Clark sees his best position as an 8 or a 10 but definitely favors playing in that attacking midfield role underneath the striker. From a stylistic standpoint, his game fits the Red Bull system and he is excited to show it throughout the USL Championship season.
“I like to bring energy to the team, attacking wise, defensively pressing. I think that’s definitely a big part of my game is being able to change the pace of the game in any given moment, if that’s pressing high winning tackles or being creative with the ball being dynamic with the ball as well.”Caden Clark on what he brings to the field.
Off the field Clark is like any other 17-year-old. He enjoys playing video games, which at this time consists of mostly FIFA and Call of Duty: Warzone. He enjoys hanging out and just chilling which at this moment includes a lot of Netflix and other streaming platforms. Having only spent a little time in the area since he went back to Minnesota during the shut down, he hasn’t got the chance to fully explore but he enjoys all the little towns and is looking forward to exploring more of them.
Caden Clark is a young kid but you wouldn’t know it talking to him. His maturity is apparent even over the phone and he doesn’t look out of place on the soccer field. The potential and opportunity is in front of him to follow in the footsteps of a player like Tyler Adams or Matt Miazga, who parlayed strong play with the New York Red Bulls into European moves. He has a long road ahead of him, however, he has the attitude and desire to reach the next level. Caden Clark is one New York Red Bulls fans should be excited about and should start following now.