Seventeen-year-old Caden Clark has been generating quite a bit of buzz over the last few days—and for good reason.
He signed his first MLS contract with the New York Red Bulls on the morning of October 10 and then not only started in their game that night against Atlanta United, but he also scored the game-winning goal on a sensational volley from the top of the box. Clark became the fifth-youngest player to score on his MLS debut.
The Red Bulls acquired the Minnesota native’s MLS rights from Minnesota United FC in exchange for $75,000 in General Allocation Money. Before graduating to the senior team he was already a member of their New York Red Bulls II squad in the USL Championship, registering 12 appearances, three goals and a team-leading five assists this season.
According to Minnesota head coach Adrian Heath, that was a big reason why MNUFC weren’t able to sign the young midfielder. In a press conference on Tuesday, Heath said “the fact that he wasn’t in our academy was an issue.”
"We couldn't have done a lot more to keep him here," Heath told media. "I know a lot has been written about this situation. Some of it is so misinformed, it's unbelievable. We tried to get Caden to sign here. I met with him and his father and the owners. We tried to get to the situation where he was going to play here."
Although Clark trained with Minnesota’s first team a couple of times and it was obvious he was a talented player, Heath said that “even the Red Bulls, they needed to see him play in USL level before they could make a decision to offer him an MLS contract. We were not in that situation; we didn't have a second team to go on. We spoke to the kid and his family about maybe signing with us and going to Madison, which was something they weren't keen on — which I understand.”
The manager added that “we tried everything we could to get him to sign for us and unfortunately we couldn't. So then we tried to get the best deal that we can. And then, when I look at what we got and what we will eventually get, I think it was a pretty good deal for somebody who's never really played for us.”