Longtime St. John's head coach Dave Masur has seen former players of his transition straight from college to the pro ranks with success before – Shalrie Joseph and Chris Wingert come immediately to mind.
Ask him about Connor Lade, the defender he coached for four seasons with the Red Storm, and he thinks the newly signed New York Red Bull certainly could follow in their footsteps.
“I think that is awesome,” Masur told MLSsoccer.com of the 22-year-old Lade. “He truly has earned a spot with his dedication, hard work and talent.”
Lade signed with his hometown MLS team as a Home Grown product last month as he transitioned from the Red Bulls Academy to the senior team. He becomes the first academy player signed by the Red Bulls from the fertile Morris County, N.J., area – Lade’s home of Morristown is just minutes from where former MetroStars midfielder Billy Walsh grew up and played his high school soccer.
Primarily a right back for St. John’s, Lade also showed well in the center of defense for the Red Storm. The 5-foot-7 Lade told MLSsoccer.com last month that he envisions himself playing as an outside back, one who likes to push forward into the attack and is comfortable on the ball in the attack. Masur sees this skill set as well in his former player.
“Connor will be an outside back to start within the league,” Masur predicted. “He is fast, tough, very focused. A great one-v-one defender [who] can concentrate and he does not get eliminated off the dribble. He brings many intangibles to each and every game and practice, which will be very important to the team’s overall success.”
Lade earns rave reviews from Masur for being respectful and a player who “leads by example.” On the field, his college coach likens his playing style to A.J. DeLaGarza of the LA Galaxy, who has cemented himself in the MLS Cup champions’ back line.
Almost immediately, DeLaGarza became an instant starter for the Galaxy and Masur sees Lade making an impact for the Red Bulls sooner rather than later.
“Like all college players, Connor will need to adapt to some of the higher level reading of the game that is required and get a feeling of what top level pros are capable of and he will have to adapt that into his skill set,” Masur said. “But he is a fast learner and determined player who should be able to contribute to the team’s success in his first season.”