HARRISON, N.J. – New York Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe was critical of his defense following the club’s 2-2 draw versus the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday. But the one defender who seemed to escape that criticism was the one with the least experience.
Rookie fullback Connor Lade (above, left) earned a positive review from Backe after making his professional debut in the second half of the match at Red Bull Arena. Lade replaced an injured Roy Miller in the 59th minute and held up well against the Earthquakes’ talented attack in his first game for the Red Bulls.
WATCH: Full Match Highlights
“He was involved in some good actions,” Backe said after the game. “He has a lot of pace, he’s a tough guy. I have no problem to play Conor Lade as a left back in MLS. I would say I was quite surprised the whole preseason with his performance, and he is a guy that can definitely play well in MLS.”
A product of St. John’s, the Red Bulls Homegrown player showed off why his manager is so definite about him. Lade, who is listed at 5' 7", kept up with the Quakes' speedy fought off Marvin Chavez to keep possession for New York on one play, and stuck with him step for step on another.
Those two instances were some of the better defensive plays for the Red Bulls, who relinquished two first-half leads to San Jose due to shoddy defending from their veteran starters.
For Lade, the 31-minute outing was just the latest lesson learned in his development.
“It was an awesome experience,” he said. “It was a tough game to step in. It was a really fast game, different than anything I’ve ever experienced, but it’s finally nice to step in there and see the pace of the game and show what I can do at that level. Hopefully take that and put it in the memory bank and continue to grow.”
Making his debut in the match was also something Lade was not thinking about until he was told to warm up after Miller sustained the knock.
“The first time Roy went down, they told me to go in the corner and warm-up,” Lade said. “I was kind of thinking in my head [my debut] might be tonight. I feel fortunate that it was, and overall pleased.”
Lade may have made a case for further playing time, but he is unlikely to supplant Miller as the starting left back spot for next weekend's road game against rivals D.C. United (Sunday, ESPN2). Backe said after the game the left knee inflammation Miller suffered was nothing severe.
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.