When Cody Cropper stepped foot at Houston Sports Park for the first time, he was greeted by a familiar face. The Georgia-native learned he would share the fields at the club’s training facility with longtime childhood friend and mentor, Ricardo Clark, but this time as a Dynamo Academy Coach.
“One of my earliest memories with Rico is running around the field behind him when I was around six or seven years old,” says Cropper. “I was always there trying to follow…I remember him being the same – he’s like a grown child. He’s a great guy off the field and a great player on it.”
Cropper grew up watching Clark play in the fields of Georgia. Clark attended St. Pius X Catholic High School where Cropper’s father, Joe Cropper, was the head coach of the men’s soccer team.
“My dad will still live in those days when they would win state championships and would go undefeated in a season. Ricardo was at the helm of a lot of those years for my dad as a coach…It was one of those things he could do in those tough games – to get the job done” says Cropper.
During the 2017 MLS season, Cropper was a in goal for the New England Revolution and knew he would face Clark, who would play his last season for the Dynamo. For Cropper, that game was one he anxiously looked forward to playing.
“I knew Ricardo was still playing and that’s the one game I wanted to be in. For me, it was something that I can look back at and made my dad super proud – that I was playing at a level with people like Ricardo,” said Cropper. “After that game I traded jerseys with him and sent it directly to my dad. It’s one that he still has in his house in Georgia now.”
Although having met Clark as a young kid, Cropper looked up to the now-retired Dynamo legend. Cropper grew up watching Clark lead his father’s high school team, and then flourish into what he describes “one of the best U.S. midfielders” in his prime. Although it came as a surprise, Cropper knows Clark is an asset to the Dynamo Academy.
“I think hiring him as a coach was great – he is a player that reached a certain level that not many people reached. That will be a fantastic opportunity for him to give back to a game that gave him so much, and it’s also a fantastic opportunity for the club to have him as part of their staff.”