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Caden Clark: Barcelona-trained teen ready to take MLS — and Europe — by storm

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Caden Clark: Barcelona-trained teen ready to take MLS — and Europe — by storm

If you need a reminder of just how young Caden Clark is, ask him about his thoughts on attacking football.

There is no filter there, just pure excitement. He speaks about moving the ball, making that key pass, scoring wonder goals like the ones that saw him burst onto the scene at the tail end of the MLS season.

DeCOURCY: MLS must seize chance to take next step forward

His voice perks up as he describes exactly what he wants to do to defenses and how he plans to do it.

But, despite how young he is, there is nothing childlike about the way the 17-year-old New York Red Bulls star plays the game. There is no immaturity, no needless movement.

There is, though, a certain determination, a certain mentality that has already differentiated him from many of the best young players in American soccer.

That mentality was evident when he scored a game-winning goal to mark his MLS debut. It sure was on display when he scored again four days later against Toronto FC, and it was definitely there when he scored the Red Bulls’ lone goal of their MLS Cup playoff run against the eventual champions, the Columbus Crew.

Ask Clark who he is as a player and what he wants to be, and he is quick to give you an answer.

“It’s a simple answer for me,” he tells Goal. “I think it’s kind of simple but it comes with a lot of things. Just being a killer. I just want to be a killer in the final third. I want to be someone that’s just always attacking.

“I get excited just talking about it, because I know I can do it. It’s not even a confidence thing; it’s just realizing when to do it.

“Just being a killer in the final third. Just going at people. The worst thing that’s going to happen is you’re going to lose it and, us Red Bulls, we press. So I think that’s the best place to do things.”

Clark has played just eight career MLS games, having joined the Red Bulls’ senior team from Red Bulls II following an MLS-centric transfer saga involving Minnesota United, and that killer instinct is already clear.

His first goal was a stunning volley from just inside the box as Clark pounced against Atlanta United to fire the Red Bulls into the lead on the same day he signed for the first team.

Four days later, he took it a step further, firing a 30-year missile into the top corner to show that his first goal was far from a fluke.

And then there was the playoff goal, where Clark scored against the Crew on the biggest stage on whhe has featured to date.

“It was really cool that it all lined up,” he says. “Dennis Hamlett, our sporting director, when I signed, before we got on the flight to Atlanta, he said, ‘You’re starting tomorrow, you know the game plan, so just score the winning goal for us’. I think it was kind of ironic that it turned out.

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“It didn’t really change much after that. I still played how I play now. Of course, it’s a confidence booster no matter what. I guess, the next game Toronto, I don’t think I’m hitting that shot if I didn’t score the game before. I think little things like that have changed, but overall, me as a player, I’m the same.”

And it is those moments that have him on the radar of Europe’s biggest clubs. Clark is expected to move to RB Leipzig when he turns 18 in 2022, following in the footsteps of Tyler Adams in making the leap from New York to Germany. 

It is one of the reasons he chose to sign with the Red Bulls, a club notorious for developing some of the best young players MLS has produced over the last decade.

But Clark’s road to MLS, and to the Red Bulls in particular, was a winding one, and one he never planned on embarking on in the first place. 

The midfielder grew up in Minnesota, a state that was far from a soccer hotspot until the introduction of Minnesota United just a few years ago.

Already more talented than his peers from a young age, Clark routinely played up an age group, initially starting at the Under-13s level when he was just 9. He eventually joined the Minnesota Thunder Academy, where he remained for most of his youth career.

While playing up an age group, Clark was taught several harsh lessons. Since he was physically smaller than virtually every player he played against, he could not beat them with pace or strength. Instead, he had to outthink them if he wanted to outplay them.

And it was in those moments that he began to develop into a playmaker. He idolizes Kevin De Bruyne and Bruno Fernandes, two players that beat defenses not just with their feet but with their minds. They always make the simple play, he says, but they make it look so damn good.

That is the player Clark wants to be: not just the type that can open up a defense with that final ball, but the type that saw that pass developing long before the ball left his feet.

“I was getting good experience at a young age of playing against physical players,” he says. “It kind of teaches me how I need to play the game without being so physical because I couldn’t hang with those guys. I was like 12 and they’re 14. It’s a big gap, huge, and an important period of your growth.

“So it was kind of just figuring out, if I can’t run beside them and challenge for balls, you have to just pick your moments.”

Eventually, it got to a point where Clark knew that it was time to plan for his professional career, and he sat down with his father to assess his options. He trialed with FC Dallas, unsuccessfully. It was not a good fit, he says, and both sides decided that it was not the right move for them. 

“No hate on FC Dallas at all,” he says. “But they were playing a box in the midfield, and I just didn’t know how to play it and was like, ‘What the hell is this?’

“I talked to Luchi [Gonzalez] after he said that he didn’t think I was the best fit for them, and I said that was totally fine.”

His next stop? The Barcelona academy in Arizona, which offered him the opportunity to train at the world-famous La Masia academy. That trip to Spain actually ruled Clark out of one of the few national team camps he had been called up to at that point, but it did help open his eyes to see what needed to be done to play in Europe.

And that path, at the time, did not include MLS. Clark knew that joining an MLS club could limit his opportunities in Europe when his 18th birthday rolled around. Signing a contract in MLS would tie him down and perhaps open up transfer issues if a team priced him out of a dream move.

But then came the Red Bulls, a team that was willing to not just develop Clark but also move him when the time was right

“I was 16 and I was at a point where if I wait to go to Europe at 18, MLS-free, I can go play in the USL,” he says. “How far can the USL push me until I’m 18? We were talking about Phoenix Rising through a relationship with the Barca Academy and then hopefully go over to Barca when I’m 18. But I just didn’t think that was the best situation for me.

“Looking at what Red Bull had to offer at every level, we compared it with other MLS clubs I was looking at and it was just the best overall offer from every aspect that I could have asked for. That was the decision.

“I was at a point where I needed to join an MLS club because I wasn’t going to get better in those two years if I didn’t compete at that next level.”

Pretty soon, Clark may be taking things to an even higher level. He is already on the U.S. men’s national team radar, despite not having many youth appearances to his name. He was on the preliminary roster for the U.S. U23 team that failed to qualify for the Olympics and, despite not making the final squad, is hoping to play his way into more international opportunities in the years to come.

He turns 18 in May, and when that day comes he will almost certainly be looking toward Europe, becoming the next in a long line of young stars to make their way through the Red Bull pipeline.

Maybe he follows in the footsteps of Erling Haaland, Sadio Mane or Timo Werner in using Red Bull as a springboard into the world’s elite. But no matter what is next for the teenage showstopper, Clark is ready for his next chance to show off what a killer he can be with the ball at his feet.

“I’m not the most physical person out there, but I would try to use my other assets to fill that gap,” he says. “I don’t want to get into a thousand tackles.

“I’m kind of a player that likes to sit in the pocket and find gaps and passing lanes and play those one-touch passes that will really open up the opponent, and then you go from there.

“I want the opponents to pressure me in certain situations and get compact, and then the rest of game is open. It’s making these small little plays on the field.

“That’s what I really enjoy: just opening up teams. I enjoy finding good gaps, good passes and just being really smart with my movement. If I get the ball, OK, it’s opening up a lane for my teammate.

“That side of soccer, that’s what I really enjoy and that’s what I’m best at.”

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Connor McDavid hits ‘impressive’ 100-point mark in Oilers’ 53rd game

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Connor McDavid hits 'impressive' 100-point mark in Oilers' 53rd game

Entering Saturday night’s “Hockey Night in Canada” showdown with the Canucks, Connor McDavid had been downplaying how important scoring 100 points this season was to him.

“It’s a number,” McDavid said when he was sitting on 93 points; he had 96 Saturday morning. “If I get there, great. If not, it’s not the end of the world, either. The most important thing is our team is gearing up for the playoffs and making sure we’re firing on all cylinders in Game 1.”

Well, while he may not have been thinking about it, the smile on his face when he notched point 100 in the second period — his fourth point (goal, three assists) of the night — told a different story. The historic moment came in the Oilers’ 53rd game of the season as he assisted on Leon Draisaitl’s game-winning power-play goal.

“Honestly, it’s just impressive,” said Draisaitl, who hit his own career milestone of 500 (and 501) NHL points in the game. “I don’t think my English is good enough to find another word for it right now, but it’s incredible. I mean, I don’t know, we’ve played 50-some games, he’s at 100 points. It’s just very impressive and just, you know, fun to be a part of.”

“I think what it does, it just solidifies he’s one of the top players to ever play the game,” said head coach Dave Tippett. “The level that he’s played at this year, and just what he’s accomplished, it’s one of those years that you look at Wayne [Gretzky] or you look at Mario [Lemiuex], it’s one of those years where he’s taken his talents to another level that is just elite for the league.”

McDavid, who has 32 goals and 68 assists, became just the ninth player in NHL history to hit the century mark in 53 games, joining the likes of Gretzky and Phil Esposito. The last players to do it were Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr with the Penguins in 1995-96. 

“It’s special to be part of a group like that, obviously. Those are the game’s best players of all time so it’s special to be mentioned in the same breath as those guys,” McDavid said postgame.

“Four-point nights aren’t something that come regularly, I think. I was just trying to come in and play a good game, play like I can,” he said later, adding that he spoke to his parents and was surprised his mom was awake to see it. “My legs felt pretty good. I was able to get on the board on the first shift, that always helps. I think after the first one, it kind of crosses your mind, and I was fortunate to feel pretty good throughout the night and a couple of great shots from my teammates.”

After the Edmonton captain hit the mark, Twitter not only praised him but was also in awe of the moment.

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Blue Jackets, John Tortorella reportedly parting ways; five landing spots for the veteran coach

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Blue Jackets, John Tortorella reportedly parting ways; five landing spots for the veteran coach

John Tortorella’s contract with the Blue Jackets expires this summer and The Athletic’s Adam Portzline is reporting that the veteran coach will not be re-signing with the team. The Blue Jackets’ season ended Saturday with a 5-4 overtime win over the Red Wings.

“People talk about a shelf life. I don’t think there’s a shelf life for a coach, but what I believe in is, is it the right fit?” Tortorella said postgame on Zoom when asked if he’d like to return next season. “I think the fit of the coach and the players and personnel, I think that’s the most important thing and that’s something (Jackets GM) Jarmo (Kekalainen) and I have discussed very honestly. Very honestly. I get it. Am I the right fit? These are the things Jarmo and I have talked about.

“I think this will come to a solution very quickly here.”

Tortorella joined the club after it started the 2016-17 season 0-7-0 under Todd Richards.

“John Tortorella is an experienced National Hockey League coach with a proven track record of success,” Kekalainen said at the time of the hire. “He is a Stanley Cup winner, and we believe the right person to lead our team at this time.”

While he didn’t lead the Blue Jackets to a Stanley Cup, he did steer the team to four straight Stanley Cup playoff appearances beginning in 2016-17. The team also had one of the greatest postseason performances in NHL history when it swept the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Lightning in the first round of the 2019 playoffs.

This season, the club finished last in the Central Division with an 18-26-12 record. It marked the first full season in which the club finished under .500 with him at the helm. It didn’t help that the year started shakily with disgruntled forward Pierre-Luc Dubois wanting out of Columbus. He was soon sent packing, but the player for whom he was swapped, Patrik Laine, also seemed to struggle under Tortorella.

Tortorella will leave with a 227-166-54 record for Columbus. Across four teams (Lightning, Blue Jackets, Rangers and Canucks) he has posted an overall record of 672-541-37-132 record and holds the record for most wins among U.S.-born coaches.

While he noted that he joined the Blue Jackets as an older coach, it doesn’t sound as if the 62-year-old wants to hang up his whistle just yet. With that, here’s a quick rundown of five possible landing spots for the colorful coach:

New York Rangers

If David Quinn is shown the door, then could there be a return to Broadway for Tortorella? He did post an impressive 171-118-1-29 record and led the team to four postseason appearances — including a conference final in 2012. Oh, and guess who was captain for him during some of his tenure . . . the guy who was just named the team’s GM and president, Chris Drury.

Vancouver Canucks

Like Tortorella, Travis Green is not signed beyond this season and there could be a vacancy in the Pacific Northwest. The Canucks and Tortorella also have some history — one 82-game season that was, well, interesting, to say the least. Maybe the duo are due for a re-do?

Arizona Coyotes

Bench boss Rick Tocchet is also unsigned beyond this season and he could be shown the door after four seasons in the desert. Tortorella could fit here with the team’s mix of young and veteran players.

Seattle Kraken

All signs are pointing to Gerard Gallant heading to the NHL’s newest club but Tortorella could land here if GM Ron Francis wants to veer off course.

Dallas Stars

Could the Stars part ways with Rick Bowness after the team followed up their trip to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final by missing the postseason? Maybe. Tortorella does have some history with players like Joe Pavelski (Team USA).

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Canelo Alvarez vs. Billy Joe Saunders live fight updates, results, highlights from 2021 boxing card

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Canelo Alvarez vs. Billy Joe Saunders live fight updates, results, highlights from 2021 boxing card

One fighter will get closer to the first undisputed super middleweight championship in boxing history when WBC, WBA (Super) and The Ring champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez faces off against WBO titleholder Billy Joe Saunders at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Saturday.

The massive 168-pound showdown will take place in front of a live crowd of more than 70,000, breaking the attendance record for an indoor boxing event in the United States. And who better than Alvarez, boxing’s current pound-for-pound king, to be in the main event?

Alvarez (55-1-2, 37 KOs) has pursued the undisputed championship since beating Callum Smith for the WBA (Super) and vacant WBC crown in December. He followed that performance with a third-round stoppage of mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim in February before turning right back around in hopes of collecting another title against Saunders on Saturday night.

Saunders (30-0, 14 KOs) is a two-division world champion who claimed the WBO title in May 2019 by defeating Shefat Isufi via unanimous decision. He has made two consecutive title defenses, but his opponent in Texas will be his toughest test by far.

There has been some bad blood between the two heading into the fight; Canelo promised a knockout, while Saunders aims to befuddle the Mexican superstar with his technical prowess.

Who will come out on top? Stay tuned as Sporting News will have live coverage of tonight’s fight card.

MORE: Watch Canelo vs. Saunders live on DAZN

Canelo Alvarez vs. Billy Joe Saunders live updates, highlights

Sporting News’ live coverage of Canelo-Saunders will begin at 9 p.m. ET.

Canelo vs. Saunders start time

  • Main card: 8 p.m. ET
  • Canelo-Saunders main event: 11 p.m. ET (approximate)

The Canelo Alvarez vs. Billy Joe Saunders main card launches at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday night, with the champions expected to make their ring walks at approximately 10:30 p.m. or 11 p.m. ET, depending on the length of the earlier fights.

How to watch Canelo vs. Saunders

  • Subscription: $19.99/month or $99.99/year

The Canelo vs. Saunders fight will stream live globally on DAZN, to more than 200 countries and territories, including the U.S. and Canada.

Those interested in watching the fight can find DAZN on a number of different systems, including, but not limited to, Amazon Fire TV/stick, Android, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, iPhone and iPad, Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and Roku. The DAZN app is also available on LG, Samsung and Vizio smart TVs, as well as Xfinity X1 and Flex.

Viewers can also find it on DAZN.com using browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari.

Click here to learn more about DAZN.

Canelo vs. Saunders fight card

  • Saul Canelo Alvarez vs. Billy Joe Saunders for the Canelo’s WBA, WBC and Ring Magazine super-middleweight titles, and Saunders’ WBO title
  • Marc Castro vs. Irving Castillo
  • Frank Sanchez vs. Nagy Aguilera
  • Edwin Soto vs. Katsunari Takayama for Soto’s WBO light-flyweight title
  • Kieron Conway vs. Souleymane Cissokho for Conway’s WBA Intercontinental super-welterweight title
  • Keyshawn Davis vs. Jose Antonia Meza
  • Kelvin Davis vs. Jan Maslaek

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