If you've been to a Columbus Crew game this year, you may have noticed Steve Clark. Not only is he wearing a different color than anyone else on the field, but the Crew's goalkeeper is naturally hard to miss.
Clark has quickly become a fan favorite in Columbus with his eccentric nature and his "Yes!" cheers in front of the Nordecke after every win. It probably doesn't hurt that he's quickly worked his way into the discussion for one of MLS' best goalkeepers.
Because of the offensive style in which the Black and Gold play, Clark is going to see lots of shots. Fortunately for the Crew, he ranks in the top five in saves made and continues to keep opponents out of the net.
"Obviously all of us goalkeepers are all good shot stoppers," Clark said when asked about his ability to make the big save.
"We started that in like third or fourth grade, that's where you start as a goalkeeper, just stopping shots."
Clark credits his development as a shot stopper to his four years in the Norwegian league with Honefoss BK where he was consistently under siege in the nets. He also learned to just let things roll off his chest and move on.
"I have a lot of experience from when I played abroad and we lost a lot of games," he said.
"I played under a lot of pressure from relegation every year starting in July. I think you learn to just try and let things go. It's not easy.
"I wasn't always like this. It just comes with maturity. I've got a lot of games played under a lot of pressure so you kind of learn, if you get scored on early, just let that go."
Now Clark has found his way to the MLS and Columbus specifically. With this move, he's part of a team that fits his style and a city that has embraced him. In head coach Gregg Berhalter's system, Clark not only has to make the saves but also help in possession.
"It's everything. If we don't have that, we're in trouble," Berhalter said of Clark.
The goalkeeper is comfortable with the ball at his feet and has demonstrated this time after time this season. Once again, he credits this to his time in Norway.
"It was developed at gunpoint because if I didn't get better with my feet when I was over abroad, they were just going to let me go," Clark said. "So I just drilled like incessantly.
"Now here, it's really a great thing too because I come to a new team with a new coach and he wants me to play with my feet to take me to the next level. I've never been this good with my feet and that's a lot because of [assistant coach Pat Onstad] and Gregg are saying, ‘hey, we want you to hit this ball. If you make a mistake, that's okay. Continue growing.'"
Clark believes that his ability to play with the ball on the ground was as big of a reason he was brought to the Crew as his ability to keep the ball out of the net, stating, "if not me, somebody else."
Fans of the Black and Gold are certainly glad to have him and have really seen his worth over the last two games. Against the LA Galaxy, Clark came up with a number of saves to hold LA to just one goal and followed that up with a shutout win over the Houston Dynamo.
As the team continues to improve with their possession and movement, they may not have to rely on Clark to come with the big save nearly as much. If they do though, Clark will be ready.
"Every game's different. If I have to step up and make some saves, that's fine. The best game is probably just sitting back there, organizing, and getting a shutout.
"I think I just try and take it as it comes."