It’s been a long three weeks for the Houston Dynamo since Ricardo Clark left the field against the Seattle Sounders with an unspecified illness.
His absence in that time period has left the club without one of its best players, but on Friday the club got a glimmer of hope that it could finally have the former US international midfielder back in the fold.
Clark was back on the training pitch working with the Dynamo for the first time since that Sounders game, helping his club prepare for a crucial Eastern Conference showdown Sunday (4 p.m. CT; TICKETS) against the New York Red Bulls.
“We miss Rico, he’s a big part of this team,” Dynamo captain Brad Davis said. “We haven’t had our full team almost all year. That’s frustrating. It really is. We’ve been missing a lot of guys for a lot of time. It’s great to have Rico out there, and I hope we have him available for the weekend."
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In the three MLS games he’s missed, the Dynamo have been outscored 8-1 and are 0-2-1. If Clark is fit for Sunday, he could be part of a cure to Houston’s defensive ills by adding back to the mix his ability to cover sideline-to-sideline.
Clark has been out of action since Aug. 17 when he left the Sounders game with an illness. Two weeks prior to that incident, he left a game against the Columbus Crew complaining of similar symptoms, including what head coach Dominic Kinnear said was dizziness.
After his exit against the Sounders, Kinnear called the situation “scary” and last week said that Clark was being evaluated and the club would not put him back on the field until they were sure he was ready.
“We’ve missed him,” Kinnear said. “It’s good to see him back training with the guys. Hopefully he’ll be available for Sunday, and then we’ll move forward to Philly.”
While Clark is on the mend, the club was without defenders Eric Brunner and Corey Ashe and midfielder Andrew Driver on Friday. All three were later listed as out for Sunday's came on the club's injury report.
Brunner left last Sunday’s 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire with a sprained ankle suffered on a rough tackle by Chris Rolfe. Driver and Ashe left Wednesday’s loss to the Columbus Crew in the second half with what the team termed as right and left leg injuries, respectively. With defender Jermaine Taylor away on international duty, the injuries have made for a thin depth chart at a critical time.
“It’s been a tough stretch mentally for the guys," Davis said. You can see the results aren’t going our way and I know those guys want to be out here and compete with the group. We just have to stick together.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.