While watching the Red Bulls lose to the Montreal Impact in the CONCACAF Champions League Wednesday night, no one might have been prouder of midfielder Connor Lade than Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese.
Lade was loaned to the Cosmos to get playing time and his confidence back. He demonstrated how far he has come with an impressive performance as a central midfielder in the 1-0 defeat after the Red Bulls were forced to recall him due limited manpower.
"I saw a confident player," said Savarese, whose Cosmos lost to the host Carolina Railhawks, 5-4. Loan player Jimmy Ockford, Mads Stokkelien and Stefan Dimitrov scored for the Cosmos, who also got an own-goal off a Carolina player.
"I saw a player who looks like he was hungry to play and feels very comfortable. He was one of the better players."
Lade said the loan "helped me reclaim a lot of my confidence."
The former St. John's standout was supposed to fly to El Salvador with the Red Bulls to play against CD FAS in another CCL match Wednesday, but Lade was red-carded late in the game. Instead, the 24-year-old Lade returned to the Cosmos.
"It's disappointing not being able to play in that game," Lade said. "It just makes me re-energize my focus back here and be ready for my next challenge."
Loaning players is a regular soccer practice, usually for ones that need playing time to get their match fitness, rhythm and confidence back and to help the team. The Cosmos have become a proving ground with three other loan players, central defender Ockford, El Salvador captain and midfielder Andres Flores and forward Danny Mwanga.
"It's an opportunity for them to grow," said veteran midfielder Danny Szetela, who once was loaned from Racing Santander (Spain) to Brescia (Italy). "This is an environment where players are going to develop. They're going to be a better player."
All four players said the Cosmos' environment has been conducive to their development.
"When we bring in a loan player, we treat him like he's our player," Savarese said. "We don't treat him as somebody else's player. We know that they're here to develop, to keep on growing to get some games. On the same token they've come here to compete because none of them have a guaranteed situation to get minutes because they're working hard and they deserve to play."
Ockford, 22, selected by the Seattle Sounders in the second round of this year's MLS SuperDraft, was the first loan player. With Roversio injured, he has filled in well. It would have been difficult breaking into Seattle's veteran-laden lineup.
"It feels like home, it definitely does," Ockford said. "I started my career here technically. I'm not really thinking of Seattle and all of that. Right now I'm just focused on playing."
Ockford's successful experience opened the loan door wider.
"That was great first loan for us to have," Savarese said. "That gave us a good taste. It allowed us to be able to look when we needed the next two or three players."
Flores, 24, has added an unpredictable element to the midfield. If his loan from Isidro Metapan works out, Flores wants to make it permanent. He recently helped El Salvador qualify for next year's CONCACAF Gold Cup.
"It depends on a lot of things, about the coaches, how we feel," he said. "If it happens I'm going to be really happy because all of the things since I've been here have been very positive. I really want to stay."
Mwanga, 23, chosen by the Philadelphia Union as the first overall pick of the 2010 draft, was loaned by the Colorado Rapids. He has given a struggling attack a boost with a goal and assist in three games.
"My confidence is getting higher," he said. "The coaching staff believes in me and has put me in a place where I've have been having success and also helping the team. The loan is going great."