The past 13 months have been a bit of a whirlwind for Red Bulls midfielder/defender Connor Lade, but you won’t hear him complaining about it one bit
After signing a homegrown contract with the Red Bulls on Dec. 5, 2011, Lade went on to produce well in his first year, playing in 26 games, starting in 22, and registering three assists along the way.
Looking back on his rookie season, the 23-year-old St. John’s University grad admitted the opportunities exceeded his expectations. If anything, the early experience provides a strong foundation as he prepares to enter his second MLS season, especially following his offseason training stint with La Liga side Sevilla.
Oh, and did we mention his first U.S. Men’s National Team call up?
“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,” Lade said in a recent Q&A with NewYorkRedBulls.com of his phone call from USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “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.”
After a few days’ worth of off-field evaluations, Lade took his first steps onto the USMNT training pitch Friday morning when the team hosted its first on-field training session at The Home Depot Center in Carson, CA.
“It’s been a great couple of first days,” Lade said. “It’s a new experience for me. I’ve never been called into something of this magnitude, but it’s been great so far.”
U.S. Men’s National Team assistant coach Martin Vazquez believes the emphasis of the camp, for the first few weeks at least, will be centered on the basics.
“To get them out and start working on already the principles of play, passing and receiving and getting touches on the ball, it’s going to help us. But also we focus on fitness, which is something in these first two weeks we’ll concentrate on.”
Fundamentals aside, Lade understands the brevity of his situation, and remains fully committed to the head-down, hustle-hard style that has come to define him at such an early stage in his career.
“At the end of the day you’re here to do a job,” Lade said. “Getting out here for the first day was really great because you could finally put your foot on the ball, get your touches in, and work out all the rust that was building up over the offseason.”
On Friday the Red Bulls announced their preseason schedule, just two days after the announcement of the 2013 regular season schedule.
The USMNT will play in an international friendly against Canada at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, TX on Jan. 29 at 9:00 PM ET (TV: ESPN2, WatchESPN).