Goalkeeper Steve Clark embraces new challenge
Steve Clark didn't get his 50th Major League Soccer shutout June 29. Didn't even get a win.
Still, the guy who manned the net for the Portland Timbers for the previous three seasons appreciated the opportunity to play his 200th MLS regular-season match at Providence Park — even if it was for the visiting Houston Dynamo.
"Definitely an emotional game. You know, a lot of great memories here," Clark said Wednesday after the Timbers beat Clark and the Dynamo 2-1. "But we're pushing really hard in Houston for points and changing the culture here. So it was it was a good game. The Timbers are a good team."
Clark, who spent the moments after the match visiting with friends on both sides of Providence Park, said he needed upwards of 20 tickets for friends. He showed his appreciation for Timbers fans by waving to some and clapping to the larger audience both before and after the match, including as he prepared to defend the goal in front of the Timbers Army in the first half.
He didn't have much of a chance to stop Santiago Moreno on his penalty kick or on Moreno's shot 97 seconds later as Portland built a 2-0 lead. But Clark said he was encouraged by the way the Dynamo competed during an intense match, even in coming up short.
Clark left Portland as a free agent, after allowing only two goals through four playoff games last fall. His final action was coming up short in the penalty-kick tiebreaker that determined the MLS Cup championship in December, but he said that disappointment did not hit him when he entered the stadium on Wednesday.
"I mean, we got really close to a championship," he said. "I don't think that's a bad thing."
Clark turned 36 in April. The Timbers decided that it was time for Aljaz Ivacic, after three years behind Clark, to become their goalkeeper. Houston provides an opportunity for Clark to influence another club.
Ivacic has been cryptic when asked by media about playing against Clark. The former teammates did exchange hellos on Wednesday.
"He's doing a good job. He's a good goalie," Clark said about Ivacic. "The Timbers are a great team and I wish them all the best."
The Timbers' greatness remains to be seen. They did hurdle Houston in the standings on Wednesday, but remain below the seven-team playoff threshold.
"You see that the Timbers are a few steps down the line, where we want to be," Clark said. "We're looking to be there and we're putting a lot of energy toward that. It's a fun project and I love these (teammates)."
In addition to stopping shots, Clark's mission in Houston is to help return the Dynamo to a championship organization. That might take a bit of time, but the competitive habits he is trying to instill are a good start, he said.
"We have a lot of good players and it's just about us starting to believe in ourselves and become a winning culture — and I'm really good at that," Clark said. "You know, I play with a lot of energy. I play with a lot of passion. We've got a great group and we're having a blast pushing to make the playoffs. Every game is tight. It's been a blast."
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