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Lade looking for second chance at soccer stardom with Cosmos

Former St. John's soccer standout Connor Lade has weathered a storm of injuries to find a brand-new opportunity with the second-division NASL Cosmos after being loaned by the New York Red Bulls.

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

It seems like a cliché, but Connor Lade really just wants to play some soccer.

The 2011 St. John's grad and former New York Red Bulls defenseman has faced the highs and lows of injury, battling a handful of problems over the past few seasons, and, most recently, a shift in playing environment.

After three years with the MLS' Red Bulls, Lade was officially loaned to NASL club, the New York Cosmos on July 28, 2014.

It was a move months in the making, and one that Lade hopes will offer him that one thing he's been craving most over the past few weeks; playing time.

"I was very excited when the loan finally went through and it's been something we've been working towards for a little while," Lade said. "So when it finally came to fruition I was pretty excited because it's obviously a great place if I wanted to go to another team and this seemed like a great fit for me."

Following a solid career as a multi-year starter with the Red Storm, one that saw the squad earn Big East titles in 2009 and 2011, Lade officially turned pro in December of the same year. Lade signed with the Red Bulls as part of their Home Grown Player program, which takes some of the New York City area's top talent onto the club's roster.

That rookie 2012 season, Lade saw plenty of time on the field with 26 appearances. But after a jam-packed offseason following his rookie year, which included a call-up to the US U-20 national team, Lade found himself more than a little susceptible to injury.

"I had a good first year with the Red Bulls," Lade said. "Then I had a pretty busy offseason as well. So it was kind of a whirlwind and by the time I was finished there I was kind of mentally and physically drained."

The injuries, coupled with coaching decisions and the general hierarchy of professional sports, left Lade on the literal sidelines over the next two years. With just two total starts, the New Jersey native's attention to the possibility of a loan to gain more playing time.

That's where the Cosmos stepped in.

"When I went into preseason I had a couple of injuries that kind of lingered on for awhile," Lade said. "That obviously wasn't ideal, but you play the cards that you're dealt. Then this year, I still wasn't getting the time I was looking for. So the club agreed, with my agent and myself, that a loan might be the best to get some games and put myself in a good professional environment where I could be successful."

The loan talks with the Cosmos lasted several months; and a few other teams were in the mix before the final deal was struck. But now that he's had some time to settle into the new uniform, Lade has to admit that it all worked out better than he could have hoped.

In addition to the playing opportunity, the Red Bulls also see the pros of the loan, keeping Lade in close proximity should the organization wish to recall him to the MLS.

"When this opportunity came across the table, it was hard to pass up," Lade added. "So once we were able to get that rolling, I started getting more and more excited. Now I'm here and I'm very honored and grateful that they would have me."

Lade didn't have to wait long for the opportunity to suit up for the Cosmos. He saw his first action with the team just days after the loan was finalized, playing in the team's 1-0 loss to the Carolina Railhawks on August 2.

But while he was certainly thrilled about the 57 minutes he saw on the field, the game didn't go quite according to plan as Lade's evening ended early with a separated shoulder thanks to a collision with an opposing player near the hour mark.

The latest round of injury has kept Lade out of the Cosmos lineup recently, but he's back with the team now, and still very much on loan despite wrapping up his rehab at the Red Bulls facility and even playing 45 minutes with the Red Bulls' reserve side in a victory over Wilmington Hammerheads this past weekend.

"The MRI came back more positive than I thought they would be and I'm back here now, I'm in training," he said. "I'm just excited to get back on the field."

It hasn't been an easy road for Lade.

For a kid who was named the Big East defensive MVP of the 2011 tournament and showed such early promise with the Red Bulls, Lade's injury bug and the missed opportunities to prove himself have been the metaphorical thorn in his side that simply won't go away.

"I mean, at the end of the day, as both a competitor and an athlete, you always want to be playing," Lade said. "Obviously when you're better you just want to play games. It's a tough stretch when you're not."

He's weathered the storm as best he can. Lade knows that this chance with the Cosmos might just be the one he's been waiting for.

It's taken some time. And while there may have been more days filled with more rehab than soccer, Lade is ready to get back into a uniform and back into the game and just play, as cliché as he knows that may be.

"I'm bringing everything I've got to the Cosmos and kind of repaying them for showing some faith in me by bringing me in here," he said. "So now, I mean, it's just trying to make the team as good as possible, put my best foot forward and get a good stretch of games in, get some wins in and hopefully bring in a championship."