Connor Lade received his first call up to the U.S. Men’s National Team Monday afternoon. Toss in his offseason training stint with Sevilla, and it’s been quite the offseason for the 23-year-old New Jersey native. We caught up with Connor recently to discuss his offseason training, the USMNT call up, and his hopes for 2013.
For starters, what can you tell us about your training stint with Sevilla?
I mean, it was a really great experience to go over there and play with such a prestigious club. All the players over there are very good, and I spent a lot of time with the reserves actually, and they played at a very high level. It was nice to go over there, a little change of scenery. I thought I played well, and showed pretty well for myself. Overall, just a great experience.
Did any particular player take you under their wing?
For the amount of time I was there, it was kind of tough for something like that to happen. I think everyone over there was really nice. The language barrier is kind of difficult. I don’t speak Spanish, and a lot of the guys over there don’t speak English. It was a bit tough at first. But when you’re on the field, there’s only one language.
When you went into this opportunity, did you kind of keep a blank slate, or have something in mind with regards to what you would get from it? Was it fulfilled in any way?
You go over there to test yourself, really. You just go over with an open mind and try not to expect anything, because you just want to learn from anything the guys teach you. It was just overall a great experience, and I thought I learned a lot. I can’t wait to get back on the field and use the stuff I learned.
And then, next thing you know, you get a call from the U.S. National Team…
Yeah, a very nice, early Christmas gift. That’s something I’ve dreamt of my whole life and to finally get word of that, it was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had in my life. After that, you have to get to work. You can’t sit back and take a break. These opportunities don’t come around very often, so when you get a call like that you have to start putting in the work. I’ve been working hard the past couple of weeks to get in shape and get ready for it.
Did you speak to Jurgen Klinsmann personally? How did that go down?
Originally I received an email telling me, and then I received a phone call from Jurgen. I kind of had to pinch myself picking up that call, because he’s such a legend and he’s done great things for the national team and he’s taking them in the right direction. It’s just very exciting and I’m really looking forward to getting in camp and hopefully showing well for myself and the club, and to just try to make an impact on them for the future.
You pretty much played in every position except for goal last season for the Red Bulls. Did Jurgen talk about where he might want to use you for the USMNT?
No, we didn’t really get into too much detail on that. I guess we’ll find that out once I get in there. We’ll find out where they’re thinking for me. But again, I’m going to go in there with an open mind and just preparing myself for anywhere I can play and make the most of the opportunity. This is something you work for your whole life, so you have to take advantage of it when it comes around.
So in addition to Spain, and obviously this U.S. call up, how else have you been keeping busy and staying in shape during the offseason?
I’ve been running, even though it’s a bit cold in New Jersey. I’ve been trying to work out with different strength guys and people I know and have worked with in the past. Just keeping busy, because you can’t really take too much down time. Running, lifting, trying to keep my foot on the ball. That’s about it.
We’re edging closer to preseason here. Next thing you know the season kicks off on March 3. What are you looking forward to now as you get ready to head into your second season with the team and MLS?
It’s going to be a great year. I think it’s nice to have one year under my belt. Not knowing what to expect going into the first season, I was more than pleasantly surprised with the playing time I got and all the things I’ve learned. I think it will be a smoother transition going into this second season. It’s been an exciting time with all of the changes going on in the club and new players coming in; it’s going to be a whole other team. I’m excited for the preseason, to meet the new guys, work with them, and start to build the chemistry. Because we feel like we have the talent to win the cup, so we just have to work hard from day one to get the chemistry going, everyone on the same page, working with the new coach and his system, and get everyone together and make a run for it this year.