For the third time in his MLS career, Ricardo Clark has helped the Houston Dynamo get to an MLS Cup Final. Now the midfielder is working to make sure he can actually participate.
Clark has yet to play in MLS’ championship game, having missed the 2006 title game due to injury and the 2007 edition due to suspension. Now he is working to overcome an adductor strain that kept him out of all but 66 minutes of the Eastern Conference Championship.
“Taking it slowly,” Clark said when asked about his injury. “It’s been feeling better … so I’m just taking it day by day. I hate sitting in the training room and watching everybody train. It sucks, that’s why today I came out here and did some workouts instead of being locked up inside.”
The 29-year-old worked on the side with the trainers during Houston’s last session before a three-day Thanksgiving break and told MLSsoccer.com that he hopes to be back to full training “Sunday or Monday.”
Getting Clark back for MLS Cup is a one of the goals for the Dynamo in the next 10 days, so they can both add a pivotal piece to their puzzle and also give him his shot at playing in the title match.
Clark’s absence from the previous Cup matches was tough because of the role he played as a dominating midfielder who provided the type of bite that teams covet. His contribution to the 2012 team since coming back to MLS from Eintracht Frankfurt in July has been much the same.
“He’s one of the guys that makes the defenders look good because he does all that work in front of you,” said defender Bobby Boswell. “He’s really good at filling lanes so your approach to defending can be a little different.”
Boswell should know more than most about Clark’s defensive abilities. After all, it was the midfielder that changed the course of Boswell’s career.
“I made the [Florida ODP] team as a starting central midfielder and we played Georgia in the regionals and Ricardo Clark marked me and I lost my position as a center mid,” Boswell quipped about his youth playing days. “To this day, I still blame him for ruining my playmaking abilities.”
According to Clark, he was just trying to push Boswell in the right direction.
“I told him he’s got to look on the positive side," he said. "I’m like, ‘I motivated you. If I hadn’t marked you out of the game that time, you probably wouldn’t have been a defender.’ So I think he actually owes me.”
Clark and Boswell can settle up on the field at The Home Depot Center by winning a title. To do that, Clark’s road to full health is important so he can once again help the Dynamo add to their already storied history.
“He was a huge reason that the teams in the past got there and he did all the dirty work to get them there but didn’t necessarily get to reap the benefits of the finals,” Boswell said. “Those are definitely his trophies just as much as anyone else’s.
“Hopefully, he can be one of those key factors that change the result from last year to this year.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.