Who’s that slight fellow playing left back:
A not so uncommon theory among some New York Red Bulls fans centers around the notion that Thierry Henry exerts decisive influence over coaching tactics and administration. The most substantial evidence for the conspiracy extremists came when, on a sweltering midsummer day in Harrison, N.J., the French striker was seen visibly gesturing for coach Hans Backe to bring in rookie Connor Lade.
The substitution was significant in a 1-0 win over Chicago. The lone goal of the game came after Lade’s introduction in a performance which “helped enliven the home team’s attack”, according to Steve Davis of ProSoccerTalk. A second win the next weekend against Philadelphia, where Lade assisted on both goals, led the site to name him MLS player of the week.
The young homegrown rookie exceeded all expectations with 22 starts in 26 games (2088 minutes) and three assists in 2012, according to his player profile. Jurgen Klinsmann even rewarded Lade with an invite to the annual US National Team camp the following January. The Morristown, N.J. native seemed destined for a successful 2013 season under new head coach Mike Petke, an assumed proponent of young American talent.
Interview with Shep Messing during the height of his rookie season:
Lade squirming uncomfortably after Messing labels him a “ladies’ man” is a must watch viewing.
The boy seemed so promising:
Unfortunately, good fortune is often a fallacy for young American players (Freddy Adu can attest for that). Lade only made two starts in five games last season. His final start versus Colorado (in July) saw him struggle defensively and cede turnovers multiple times, leading Petke to remove him shortly after halftime.
He only played in one (one!) further minute the rest of the season. Injuries certainly beset him but a drop to 166 total minutes is not what most observers envisioned for Lade in his second year. Once a game-changing, energetic substitution, the young two-way winger became a main stray in the physio room and an occasional bench warmer.
In a recent interview with the podcast, “Seeing Red! The New York Soccer Roundup”, Brian Lewis of the New York Post said that Lade was definitely on the “trade block” last season. His recent non-appearance versus Philadelphia in Jacksonville, FL., without any subsequent report on a potential injury, is not an encouraging sign for his role in 2014. Whether any MLS team is willing to negotiate a trade is a topic of debate. A loan to a lower division side is more likely.
Lade has certainly come a long way from training in sunny Carson, CA. last January under Klinsmann’s guidance. Case studies for homegrown players signed by the Red Bulls demonstrate worrying trends. Promising talents like Giorgi Chirgadze, Matt Kassel and Sacir Hot were all waived, while Juan Agudelo was notably traded after limited playing time.
Petke may not be a fan of Lade anymore, but one must not forget how glowingly Henry once spoke of his teammate. Described as the “player of the season” up until that point in 2012, Henry further spoke of Lade’s impact in the aforementioned win versus Chicago.
“That’s the type of guy that you like coming on. When I turned and saw him coming on, it gives you a little lift,” Henry said to mlssoccer.com. “A big lift even. I’m a big fan of him. What I like about him, he always puts his head down and works. He changed the game when he came on.”
The Frenchman’s candidness in interviews is a well known trait among reporters. His evaluation is not an overestimation to ignore, just as his often critical analysis of former striker Kenny Cooper (traded to FC Dallas) was also a telling insight. Hopefully, Lade will remain with the team and regain his rookie form come the new season.