146 games played. 109 games started. Eight seasons, four coaches, five goals, and eight assists. The 5th homegrown in team history. He’s made more appearances than any other homegrown in team history and is currently the longest-tenured player on the team.
Standing at 5 feet 7 inches tall, Connor Lade is THE definition of a hometown hero. Born in Morristown, NJ, only a 15-minute drive from the Red Bulls training facility in Whippany, and a 30-minute drive from Red Bull Arena in Harrison. You cannot get more local than Lade.
He played U-18, U-20, U-23 level, and even NYRBII’s inaugural season. The Morristown High School alumnus has represented the organization at the highest levels and continues to be the embodiment of their homegrown program.
“It’s special. Obviously, this is my hometown club. Grew up supporting, was in those seats before I was playing on the field, so it means a lot to me for sure, to put on that shirt every game”, Lade responded when asked how it feels to have grown up with the club throughout the years.
“I don’t take that for granted. Losses mean a lot more because I am still a fan of the team as well.”
This past Saturday Lade lived any fan’s ultimate dream of scoring the winning goal for his team in front of his hometown crowd and being named Man of the Match.
“Its definitely special, to have my family and friends here, be able to celebrate these moments with us, and you know, help me through the hard times too.”
As any hard-working and wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeves type of person, there will most definitely be hard times amongst the good ones. Lade has had his fair share of both.
One year after finishing in the top five of the MLS Rookie of the Year award and playing in 26 games, Lade was only limited to five appearances due to injury. A year later, club legend Mike Petke took over as Head Coach and decided to send out Lade on a loan to NASL club New York Cosmos; limiting Lade to just 10 appearances in all competitions for RBNY.
His future at the club started to seem in doubt and whether he was in Petke’s long term plans. That didn’t matter at all, however. Jesse Marsch replaced Mike Petke as Head Coach in Lade’s fourth professional season with the club and implemented an all-new tactical system, playing a high-press, fast-paced game, capitalizing on turnovers and causing the opponents to make errors higher up the field.
There was not a better system for Connor Lade to shine in. Known as a fierce competitor, he never went down easy without a fight. His commitment to the organization was showcased every weekend and was slowly becoming a veteran leader in the locker. He was one of the most versatile players on the team, demonstrating his value to Marsch and the rest of the squad.
Year two of the high-press allowed the product from Morristown to score his first MLS goal:
With that being the highlight of his season, the lowlight was ending the season early, having torn his ACL and missing out on the final stretch as RBNY looked to secure the top spot in the Eastern Conference, heading into the playoffs.
Lade did not miss a beat in his return the following season, playing 21 games in each of the next two seasons and tallying a total of three assists as the club went on to reach the 2017 U.S. Open Cup Final, 2018 CONCACAF Champions League Semi-Final, and captured their third Supporters’ Shield in six years.
Fast forward to 2019 as the MLS season begins. The Red Bulls were 1-4-2, winless in five games, and had looked lifeless. The players were not clicking on the field, giving up silly goals, and slowly creeping towards the bottom of the standings. They needed to get back to basics and win ugly. And that’s exactly what they did against FC Cincinnati. Except for this beautiful moment of brilliance from the “Motown kid” himself:
His teammates were raving about him after the match.
“He’s a guy that shows up with positive energy day in and day out, regardless of the situation, regardless of whether he’s playing, regardless of whether the team’s winning…that’s very important in the locker room and especially in a club like ours,” stated fellow homegrown player Sean Davis.
Daniel Royer was ecstatic for Lade, “There is no person that I want more to have a great performance than Connor. He’s amazing. He puts so much effort into this team, every day, every week.”
Captain Luis Robles summed it up perfectly, “When a moment like this happens, everyone on the field, on the bench and in the stadium is happy for him because he deserves moments like this, the way that he sacrifices for this team. He’s a real leader. He’s a real team player.”
What made this night even more special and historic was the fact that it was New York’s 100th win at Red Bulls Arena.
Connor Lade’s last thoughts on the match: “I feel like its full circle and just glad to be here.”
Thank you for making this match even more memorable for me, Conor. You will always be Morristown’s Hometown Hero.
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography