MLS Spotlight: Red Bulls rookie Lade proving size doesn’t matter

ConnorLade (ISIPhotos)

By DAN MONTESANO

HARRISON, New Jersey– Connor Lade is very aware of his size.

He understands that, more often than not, each time he steps onto the field he will be the shortest one out there. It's been this way his entire life, and now that he's midway into his rookie season with the Red Bulls, he knows things aren't about to change.

So at 5-foot-5, the New York Red Bulls rookie is acutely aware of his lack of height. He just doesn't care.

"I'm a small guy, I've been fighting all my life against bigger guys, so I just try to use my pace and work hard," Lade said after his standout performance in the Red Bulls' 2-0 victory against Philadelphia on Saturday.

The Red Bulls' midfielder is a compact ball of energy and aggression. And he's become a nightmare for opposing defenders. Lade constantly pressures the ball, pushes forward and creates scoring chances for his more high-profile teammates like Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper.

"Coach just wants me to cause as much trouble as I can and create space for Thierry, Kenny and Sebastien to work their magic on the ball," Lade said. "If I find good spots and give them room, then I've done my job."

As the MLS All-Star game approaches on Wednesday, the Red Bulls find themselves near the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Forwards Henry and Cooper have combined for 23 goals to lead the way for New York, but Henry knows the contributions from Lade have been critical to the team's success thus far.

"He's been a revelation,he fights for every ball, he wants to win, he has everything you want to see," said Henry. "I love the guy, he has everything you want in a player."

Lade has been thrust into action for New York amid a rash of injuries, and has now firmly planted himself into the Red Bulls' lineup. Despite playing fullback during his career at St. John's, Lade has been pushed up to the midfield by head coach Hans Backe. Lade's ability to use his speed down the left wing has created space for Henry and Cooper to operate and create scoring chances.

Lade showed his ability in Sunday's 2-0 over Philadelphia, as he set up New York's first goal when he sent in a perfectly placed cross from the left wing into the box that was headed in by Cooper.

In addition to Lade, defender Brandon Barklage and goalkeeper Ryan Meara have also been valuable newcomers for New York. While Meara has been sidlined with a hip injury and Barklage left Sunday's game with a hamstring injury, it has been Lade who continues to provide New York with energy and pace to close out games.

The Red Bulls sorely lacked depth last season, and when injuries and international call ups decimated the roster, New York was left with limited options off the bench. This season, while still early, contributions from players like Lade have made the Red Bulls dangerous and a legitimate threat in the East.

"When you go into the third game of the week, you need that kind of attitude and spirit," said Backe. "(Connor) is a non-stop runner and a really, really hard worker. When you go into this third game, it's all about the right attitude and spirit."

Lade's  energy and willingness to contribute on the field in any way he can has given the Red Bulls every reason to believe they can remain near in the East.

"Connor is maybe the type of player we didn't have in the past," said Henry. "When we are a bit tired and dealing with injuries, Connor is coming in and helping us." 

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28 Responses to MLS Spotlight: Red Bulls rookie Lade proving size doesn’t matter

  1. nam says:

    Nicely written piece, Dan.

  2. Lorenzo says:

    Couple of questions for those who know:
    Who is his pace comparable to, Donovan? Rogers?
    Is he a left footed player? Can he play left back?
    Would love to find someone who could allow Fabians Johnson to push up to left mid.

  3. Helium-3 says:

    His work rate reminds me of the Gattuso’s days with Rangers. However, Lade brings a little bit more to the attacking end than Rino but both players have that fiery passion about them.

  4. john.q says:

    i bought some tickets through living social and sat with a bunch of first time red bull attendees. everyone loved Lade. he’s a workhorse.

    funniest part was when Lade went for a header in the box. he jumped but the ball flew right above him. everyone started laughing shouting “he’s too short!” good stuff Lade.

  5. NE Matt says:

    Isn’t his middle name “I’ll never get” ?

  6. Hogatroge Abroad says:

    Easy tiger.

    Lade’s developing well, but he’s going to need several years AND a miracle to crack the USMNT lineup at his size

  7. 2tone says:

    Height in my opinion in soccer is overrated. You don’t need to be 6’0″ + in order to send in a good cross, and having a low center of gravity usually is one of the most valuable traits to have in a soccer player.

    I hope he continues to play really well.

  8. 2tone says:

    Fabian Johnson plays Left Back for club as well. It’s time to leave Fabian Johnson at LB. The USMNT finally secures down a spot that has always troubled them, and people want to push him up to LW. He plays like a LWB anyway just leave Johnson where he is. Ther are plenty of options at the wing/outside FWD positons for the USMNT.

  9. james says:

    LOLOLOLOLOL

    Well said.

    +1

  10. Vic says:

    He has alot of hustle and defends well. He did assist on one of the goals. However, he also turned over the ball quite often and had many poor passes.

  11. mark says:

    Connor lade and the esc are mentioned in sportsgirl247.com weekly episode

  12. Duneman says:

    I must admit….he was a clear standout from the game. Never heard of him before (down in FL so not directly in touch with the NYRB news) but you dont have to know much to see how well he was playing. With big names on NY…I just kep saying “wow…who is this kid??” he was a tiger (or insert your aggressive animal of choice here) on the pitch. He fought for every ball like it was the final seconds of the game and they were still a point down. MLS teams cant afford 11 super stars…so it is HUGE when one of your “no name” rookies can come off the bench and break into the lineup like this and take on some of the spot light. He will make other people just play better. Someone like Henry cant say “you need to play like me”…but he can point at this kid on the field and say “you need to play like him”. No excuse…he prob makes less then a NY waiter, has no real following, isnt expecting any big sponsorship deal, etc….but is fighting the way you need every guy on the pitch to play every second he is on the field.

    Last…it is great to hear the news when there is another huge DP coming into MLS…but I am much more excited about MLS when I see some of these younger players in their first or second year start to have some breakout games. Here is hoping he keeps it up….he not only made NY a better team…but also made them more enjoyable to watch.

  13. Lorenzo says:

    Listen I’m not stupid, I know there are many promising young players, even Boyd and Agudelo, will have a hard time becoming international difference makers like we hope- even with their talents. I am certainly not betting the farm- or the outhouse on Lade. If anything I’d imagine he’d at best become a Zachary Loyd. Perhaps me asking many questions in a row makes me sound like a kid, but those are just the 3 Q’s I am interested in knowing. I know we have a penchant for building up players, but I’m just trying to get the skinny without waiting to watch the next NYRB game. It does help Henry sees something in him, as I’ve got more faith in his brain then Backe or half the other MLS coaches.

  14. Tim F. says:

    Agree 100%

  15. Lorenzo says:

    Listen, I’m not stupid, even if you read my post in that way. I understand asking many questions in a row may sound childish, but I’m just getting to the main points of my inquiry. I know he has a slim chance of becoming a MNT player, even Boyd and Agudelo have slim chances of becoming the MNT standouts we want them to be (even with their obvious talents).

    I’m not betting on him, but I certainly want to know more about his attributes. MLS can sometimes produce gems.

  16. Lorenzo says:

    “– That is fine with Johnson, who added that all things being equal, he would rather be in midfield.

    “My favorite position,” Johnson said. “But I feel comfortable at left back. I know the position. I know what to do there. It’s not a big difference. — ” – NY Times

    I respect your opinion, and maybe you’re right, he should stay at LB. But with his rare (for USA) ability to beat players and create goals, it is fair to wonder if he’s better at LM. Sure, if the USA was stacked, John O’Brien would be better off at LB like he was with Ajax- but that wasn’t the case. FJ is a rare difference maker for the USA and I am going to continue to believe a push up to midfield may be a better choice.

  17. Vic El Paso texas says:

    When i saw him i told myself no wonder Richards was let go, he has more skill and tempo. He reminds me of snookis boyfriend Johnny but as an athlete and he should do keep getting better, he reminds of a number 10 like sneijdar from holland

  18. TomM says:

    According to the article headline, size doesn’t matter, so I think he just might.

  19. John says:

    It’s Imaget.

  20. beto says:

    when the best player in the world is 5′ 6″ being 5′ 5″ should be accepted as no problem.

  21. nic d "the TEXAS 2 stepper" says:

    Way to go Lade … Not the size of the dog in the fight BUT the Fight in the Dog!

  22. NE Matt says:

    LMAO to both TomM and John. Well played guys.

  23. inkedAG says:

    I’m becoming a huge fan of Connor Lade. The guy fights and scraps the whole game. I love players like that.

  24. PanchoMiguelMoralesdeConejo says:

    I was thinking Stefan Frei from Fulham…only left-footed.

  25. Rog says:

    I love watching lade play, very intense. Love even more that he’s from Jersey!

  26. Chris says:

    +1. Lade needs to improve his passing. IF he does that and keeps the fire going, he will go places. European places.

  27. k walker says:

    Good Article..

  28. djm91755@yahoo.com says:

    You haven’t lost your ability to write a fantastic article, nice job