New York Red Bulls

Caden Clark turns frustration into 'positive energy' in RBNY win vs CF Montreal

Chris Smith
Clark has four goals and three assists in 22 MLS appearances this season.
Clark has four goals and three assists in 22 MLS appearances this season. / Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
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It's been a long time coming, but Caden Clark finally provided a decisive moment in the New York Red Bulls' vital 1-0 win over CF Montreal on Saturday.

With a January move to RB Leipzig already in the books, Clark made a blistering start to the 2021 season, with four goals and two assists across his first 11 games of the season.

But the 18-year-old has suffered a serious slump since then and, prior to Saturday's match, had endured a 10-game run without a single direct goal involvement. In fact, he hadn't played at all since 9th October and hasn't started a game since mid-September. Clark had to undergo surgery to remove his appendix in June, sidelining him for a month right when he was in red-hot form.

Clark was given a 23-minute cameo from the bench on Saturday and rewarded the chance given from head coach Gerhard Struber, popping up at the back post and heading the ball back across go to assist Fabio's 91st-minute winner - a goal that keeps the Red Bulls above the Playoff line.

Speaking to reporters after the match (via MLSsoccer.com), Clark revealed how he's been turning his frustration at being kept on the bench into "positive energy".

“I was absolutely pissed off because there was speculation that maybe I was going to start and I didn’t get the start at the end of the day,” he said. “It’s kind of just all built up in the last month, so I didn’t bring negative energy, I put in a positive energy and just tried to help the team any way I can.”

Clark reflected on his summer surgery, ruing the effect it's had on his season, though it's only served to make him work even harder to get back to form.

“It’s never easy getting a surgery in the middle of the season and trying to get back for fitness in the middle of the season and trying to get back to the speed of play,” he added. “So, it’s never easy, it’s taken a bit longer than I wanted it to.

“Obviously, it’s not easy before this game playing 81 minutes in a month’s time, which isn’t ideal, but it’s part of the game, we learn from it. It just goes to show you that you have to work through anything that’s hard in life in general because like today, it’s rewarding. I’ve been putting my head down, doing the extra work on the side, working my tail off in training and this is the reward.”

Clark's efforts haven't gone unnoticed by Struber, who praised his creative influence against Montreal and revealed the midfielder has won his place back in the team thanks to hard work on the training field.

“Caden, he showed me in the training and in the last few weeks more and more, he's more ready to come back and today he showed me that he helped the team in a very good direction,” Struber said. “It's not only the assist that was very important for us. Also, I can remember one special pass from him with a big chance in the end.”

Supporters will hope this is the start of another strong run of form for Clark, especially considering the Red Bulls' next match pits them against Atlanta United, who are just one point and two places further up in the Eastern Conference standings.

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