When Steve Clark first arrived in Major League Soccer, few knew what the new Columbus Crew SC goalkeeper would bring to the table.
Clark was part of the first crop of players brought in under sporting director and head coach Greg Berhalter. A group that included the likes of Michael Parkhurst, Hector Jimenez, Giancarlo Gonzalez and Emanuel Pogatetz.
“I look at Steve as he is one of the pioneers with how Columbus Crew SC got our playing style,” said Berhalter of his former goalkeeper. “Steve played an incredible role here for the time that he was here.”
The Mason, Michigan native arrived after a trade with the Seattle Sounders allowed the Black & Gold to secure his rights from Honefoss BK in Norway’s topflight division.
Clark went on to have a stellar career, making 100 appearances over three years and collecting 22 shutouts for Columbus, and was widely recognized as a leader on and off the field. Clark was incredibly durable as well, missing only two starts in his time with Columbus.
“He’s just a measuring stick at times,” said midfielder Wil Trapp.
“He’s always there to keep guys in line and what I love about Steve is if you ever needed someone to either yell at you, or pick you up he was there for both. He was very multi-talented and how he lead people.”
Clark kept his personal life out of the spotlight. He lacked a social media presence and was rarely seen out in public. However, he thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the Crew SC faithful. It wasn’t revealed until later in his tenure, that Clark worked closely with a hospice organization in the community to provide company to those suffering from grave illness.
On the field, Clark was a professional and always supported his teammates through thick and thin.
The goalkeeper’s teammates would have to come to his aid on December 6th, 2015.
That was the day of the MLS Cup Final against the Portland Timbers at MAPFRE Stadium. Clark mishandled a back pass from Trapp that allowed Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri to slide tackle the Crew SC goalkeeper and gave the Green & Gold a quick 1-0 advantage just 27 seconds into the match.
“It’s unfortunate that’s the way that so many people remember him,” said Trapp
“I had a pretty intimate relationship with the play as well because I was the one that passed him the ball back. If I look at how he handled that situation, I go back and I look at his interview after the game, of course he’s upset, of course everyone’s upset but he more than most because he takes a lot of responsibility and accountability for that play.”
Trapp remembers that the goalkeeper took the moment very hard, but marveled at Clark’s resilience to come back and try to move forward.
“I always laugh because I go back and I watch that the next pass he gets after that one I think he chips it over an oncoming defender,” Trapp recounted. “It’s like ‘Dude, where is your pulse?’ That’s one of the most cold-blooded things I’ve seen.”
Defender Josh Williams spent just one season with Steve Clark, but the two developed a relationship that goes far beyond soccer. Williams and Clark connected mentally and spiritually.
“He’s a stronger man than 99.9 percent of people in that situation,” said the Crew SC defender.
Clark tried to move on from the situation and he spent a good portion of the 2015 offseason trying to get his mind right. He often turned to Williams for guidance and advice.
“He even mentioned to me, it almost drove him out of town because of some of the stuff the fans were saying,” said Williams.
“He’s one of the most mentally strong people I know. I wish it wouldn’t have happened to one of my best friends, but it couldn’t have happened to a better person.”
With the arrival of Zack Steffen during the 2016 season, Clark’s club option was declined and he moved on to AC Horsens, where he made 17 appearances for the Danish club.
His contract wouldn’t be renewed and he signed with D.C. United on a free transfer on August 17th, 2017. With Bill Hamid’s contract situation in limbo with United, head coach Ben Olsen has given Clark the opportunity to start in goal and has challenged for first team minutes.
Gregg Berhalter commends United for giving Clark an opportunity. The Crew SC coach firmly believes that Clark can still contribute in MLS.
“Anytime you need a big save, he can come up with one. That certainly has a place in this league,” said Berhalter.
“The one thing he will always give you is he will always work and put every ounce of energy in for the team and guys like that are valuable and he’s ultra competitive. I’m not surprised he landed with D.C. I would suspect he would have a long future in this league.”
Steve Clark and his D.C. United teammates travel to MAPFRE this Saturday for the regular season finale. How do you remember the former Crew SC keeper? Do you believe he should have a warm reception?
How should Steve Clark be welcomed back to MAPFRE Stadium?
This poll is closed
Cheered pre- and post-game
Heckled throughout the match
Treated like any other visiting player