Caden Clark won't soon be forgetting October 10, 2020. Not only was it the day he was officially signed by the New York Red Bulls, but later in the evening the 17-year-old was given the start in an Eastern Conference rivalry match against Atlanta United FC and he made the most of it.
The Minnesota native, who starred for Red Bulls II in the USL Championship this season, scored the game's only goal on a spectacular volley to give his side all three points. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he's the fifth youngest MLS player to score on his debut:
- Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas): June 3, 2017 (16 yrs, 161 days)
- Diego Fagundez (New England): Aug. 6, 2011 (16 yrs, 173 days)
- Jack McBean (LA Galaxy): Oct. 23, 2011 (16 yrs, 312 days)
- Fuad Ibrahim (Toronto FC): July 12, 2008 (16 yrs, 332 days)
- Caden Clark (NY Red Bulls): Oct. 10, 2020 (17 yrs, 136 days)
- Ben Mines (NY Red Bulls): March 10, 2018 (17 yrs, 301 days)
RBNY interim head coach Bradley Carnell said he saw something special about the young midfielder from the very beginning.
“We know what a special talent he is and we've seen it throughout the USL. And we know he has certain qualities and it makes it interesting with our style of play. So, first and foremost, you know he's a Red Bull player — a Red Bull philosophy player — he plays our way, runs our way and he's hungry in our way," Carnell said in his postgame press conference. "The first half, it took him 5-10 minutes to get into the groove of what now the MLS is all about. But then he found the groove and he started picking up spots, started making passes and started making plays. So his confidence grew.”
And that confidence was evident in the 47th minute of the game when Clark found himself all alone at the top of the box during a corner kick. After a header sent the ball in his direction, Clark one-touch volleyed it past Atlanta's veteran goalkeeper Brad Guzan and into the back of the net.
Watch: Clark's game-winner in Atlanta
“I didn't believe it and I still don't believe it,” Clark admitted. “It's just really exciting for me. It hasn't hit me yet, but I'm sure it will soon. But, you know, it's just, it's great for this team to get this win, and that is the most important part.”
Carnell knows this is just the beginning for the young player and said it’s his job as head coach to “make sure that his feet stay on the ground ... he’s a very grounded guy, he's a humble guy. And you could see in his performance tonight, he's gutsy — he wants more and he wants to do more for the team and he runs miles and miles and miles and doesn't stop. So he's like a little dynamo in the midfield there.
"So, very happy about his performance and now it's our job to make sure that we're pulling the strings in the right way just to guide him along down the line.”