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Clark ready to reclaim key USMNT role

Ricardo Clark (TonyQuinnISI) 

photo by Tony Quinn/

Ricardo Clark was a key contributor in the U.S. national team's surprising run to the Confederations Cup final last summer, and while he looks certain to return to South Africa for the World Cup, his place in the starting eleven is anything but guaranteed.

Clark enters the U.S. pre-World Cup camp battling with a number of other players for the spot next to Michael Bradley at central midfield. Players like Jose Francisco Torres, Benny Feilhaber, Sacha Kljestan and Maurice Edu all pose a threat to the position, but Clark is prepared for the competition.

"I'm used to it. I've been doing this since I was eight years old," said Clark. "Just got to do your thing on the field and hopefully it works out for you."

Persevering is a trait Clark has shown is one of his strengths over recent years. After initially being omitted from the roster for World Cup qualifiers and the Confederations Cup, the former Houston Dynamo player found his way onto the team after Edu suffered a late injury with Rangers FC. Clark took advantage of the opportunity, earning a starting role in the majority of the summer matches, including the historic 2-0 victory over Spain in the Confederations Cup semifinals. 

Forcing his way into the starting lineup is also something Clark accomplished at the club level. After leaving MLS as a free agent last winter, Clark signed with German Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt. He looked poised to break into the starting eleven shortly after arriving, but like many Americans this year, Clark suffered an injury - a calf strain that delayed his European debut.

"It was frustrating, especially going into a new team without knowing what the future would hold," Clark said. "I only had a six-month contract so if I played well the team would extend my contract. Thankfully, I grinded it out and stayed positive and in the end it worked out."

After recovering from the calf strain, Clark showed enough in training to warrant three consecutive starts for Eintracht to close out its season. His performances in those matches drew positive reviews, and they earned him a three-year extension with the club, an extension Clark signed due to wanting to continue to test himself in a better league with a more professionalism atmosphere.

"I think it's just the overall mentality. It's a very rigorous mentality," said Clark. "Their trainings are very, very strict in their play on and off the field. It's just a more professional environment than MLS."

That environment is what Clark hopes will help him regain the starting role he flourished in for the United States last summer.

"I feel ready, I have the mentality that I'm always going to be ready," said Clark. "I played the last three games of the season, played full 90 minutes and felt fit so I think I'll be good for this camp."


  1. Interesting, in the confed cup, our CMs were Clark, Bradley, and Sacha, and they all got sent off/suspended. Edu wins by default.

  2. In all fairness to Rico, he sat on the bench because, like was mentioned above, he was injured. I don’t think that Frankfurt would have extended his contract if they didn’t think he could perfom.

    But I like the gun analogy.

  3. Nobody has mentioned his penchant for striking the ball from distance. Anybody remember his goal from the TNT game that put us atop the Hex for good?

    Please educate me…I don’t know the answer to this question…Does Edu have that ability? We know Benny does. Does Edu ahve the passing ability of Benny? It’s occuring to me that Edu may only offer defensive ball winning ability where Clark does offer more on the offensive side and with Benny we lose a bit defensively and gain more creativity.

    If this is the case then Clark is my man with Benny subbing when O is needed and Edu coming in to solidify a result.

  4. start Bradley, Edu & Clark in a 4-3-2-1 giving Bradley & Clark a more advanced role

    it’s defensive but stout in the middle. good options exist on the bench for offensive sparks (Holden, Torres, Feilhaber) if necessary.

  5. Bedoya is better than the rest of the players on that list. He’s been one of Orebro’s best three players this season.

  6. Are we talking about the same Ricardo Clark?? The Man who has been warming the bench for Eintracht Frankfurt (just signed a three year deal May 7th!!!!) till only a few games ago? The man still “smells” MLS, freshly unrapped and people think he’s going to be able to change our fate in the midfield?? Against who? England? We need to be real about our players and if we are to go to war with only “M9 pistols”….so be it (we can try to improve on tactics rather than skill), but dont THINK you’re carrying an M60 while you’re going up against AK-47’s….coz the end result will be really really messy!!!!!

  7. I’ve often argued that the final against Brazil would have been different if Michael Bradley would have played. I agree 100% with you.

  8. “Since when is Michael Bradley the same as Landon Donovan with an Automatic spot? ”

    For some time now. Other than Donovan, Bradley is the USMNT’s best all around midfielder. He’s way ahead of Edu and Clark in that regard.

  9. Matty, I’m only joking about that because I agree with you 110% I honestly, truly believe that somewhere out there Freddy is pissed because those chumps got the call up over him! Kljestan training with the WC squad in Princeton is absolutely ridiculous!

  10. I agree Jerome. No player should have an automatic starting spot. I would like to see the competition for the cm spots open up a bit more. Michael Bradley should not be a lock to start. There are other combination’s of players that could essentially be more productive (one comment from our ever insightful US soccer commentators comes to mind. They said 4 different players have started next to MB and no one has yet to play well enough to stay in the middle with him). Can anyone think of 1 meaningful game where MB was not in CM, maybe the problem is not finding someone to play with MB, but in place of MB. I know MB is slated as USA ACM but its not hard to notice that he plays a defensive part particularly well. So, with that stated I just hope we don’t have 2 DCM with one labeled as an ACM in the WC. I would really like to see some attacking play by the USA for a change. Defense alone does not win games. How many times can the USA post stats that read USA 2 goals out of 3 attempts- other 1 or 0 goals out of 20+ attempts.

  11. “The second loss against Brazil was because Bradley had us come out conservatively in the second half, instead of continuing to attack. ”

    That’s a bit of an overstatement.

    I know because I was screaming for Bradley to park the bus much sooner than halftime. Had they done that they might have been able to preserve their lead. Instead they kept trying to make a game of it. I couldn’t have cared less if the rest of the game had 11 men in the 6 yard box, in a final you preserve the lead any way you can. I still think if Michael Bradley had played we would have won.

    There wasn’t enough time for anyone to tell if the US came out conservatively in the second half because Brazil scored in the 46th minute ( or basically just as the second half started) and from then on had the US back on their heels. Brazil can do that to anyone.

  12. I’ve always been a Rico fan (I’ve got a Clark Dynamo jersey), but….

    Edu > Feilhaber > Clark

    I see Torres as more of a winger — don’t think he’s physical enough to play the middle internationally.

  13. Part of the issue of Professionallism stems from the society in which the leage/players come from. Players in Europe are use to rigid structures.

  14. laugh all you want about freddy but he deserves to be among the 30 as much or more than Klejstan, Rogers, Bedoya, Heath Pearce and probably even Beasley. Not to say he should necessarily be in the 23, but I am saying this having watched him a lot.

  15. clark was fantastic against Spain, covering a ton of ground and throwing himself at shots. And it was his steal and early outlet pass to Landon that started the brilliant counterattack for the 2nd goal vs Brazil. to say he “flourished” is accurate — nobody said he is better than Cambiasso or John O’Brien. But he is not competing with them for that spot now, is he?

  16. I wonder why I keep hearing stuff like this from mls guys who go europe? I wonder why mls teams don’t demand more rigorous practices and more professionalism during those practices? I wonder what arena and kinnear et al think when they read comments like that?

    I know that we, the fans, should start to demand that of our respective squads but isn’t this a priority of the managers? One would think that the top guy would get sick of hearing crap like that and require more professional training sessions?

    I read all last year about berghoffers (sp?) demands on Gonzalez and there is evidence that it paid off… Why does that responsibility rest on berghoffers shoulders? Teams and coaches should demand this of ALL players…

  17. Hey Franco,
    You can’t write that Clark hopes to regain the role “he flourished in last summer”. If Ricardo Clark’s performance in the center midfield last summer is described as flourishing…what superlative do you use to describe the jobs of Inter Milan’s center mids, John O’Brien 2002 WC, or any performance where the center mids both break up plays, keep possession, and create chances-Spain/Netherlands/Italy/Brazil/…ect?

  18. Why cant it be………Clark/Edu/Bradley battling for 2 positions. Since when is Michael Bradley the same as Landon Donovan with an Automatic spot? What if Edu (24) and Clark (27) are better in camp and the friendlies than Bradley (22)?

  19. The battle between him and Edu is one to watch. Bringing either on in the 70th minute to shore up a lead is not a bad asset to have. I think Edu wins the starting job.

  20. When have we ever controlled the tempo of a game against quality sides? When was the last time we kept more possession than our opponents against quality sides?

    I agree with “away goals” in that we sit back and absorb pressure, hoping for the break away opportunity.

    Being a bunker, park the bus kind of team does not mean we dominate midfield. It means we survive. Our goal was lay to siege like a castle and the guys stood strong, got a couple opportunities and put them in.

    No harm in those tactics if that’s how Bob wants to play; it can win big games. However, we neither created tempo nor did we have possession in the final third in any way for last summer’s games with the two of htem.

    The final is a perfect example of how we can attack with an attack-minded midfielder alongside Bradley and take the game to our opponents. The second half was also the perfect time to play Clark (who I know was out) – that’s what Clark is good for.

    Edu offers far more than Clark ever will when it comes to presence on the field, ball skills, and passing. Watching him with Rangers shows what he can do, given the box-to-box freedom he needs.

  21. I would have to think it simply context- more professional I bet would describe the German league against any league in Europe- it is simply the German style, the abide my rules more strictly over there and I would expect it would be more professional.

  22. I wouldn’t put Torres as Clark’s competition. You play Torres when you want a play-maker in midfield. You play Clark when you want a solid defensive effort. Against England we won’t see Torres, even if he makes the squad. But, against Algeria Torres might be a better choice.

    Mind you, I haven’t been terribly impressed with Torres in any national team appearances, so I’d probably opt for a Holden or Feilhaber instead.

  23. Very funny! But c’mon guys leave the poor guy alone. he’s not going to be on the plane to SA. And anyway, this is suppose to be about Clark. Very funny though…

  24. While I do like clark I see him as a Kind of super sub. Someone to bring into the match when/if the US has a lead and wants to clog up attacks. His work rate and ability to slide into the passing lanes to slow/stop the flow of play for the other team is extreamly useful. Personally I’d start Edu & Bradley, sub in Clark if we’ve got a lead around the 60 minute mark, or if we’re behind sub in Benny or Torres for more creativity/vision.

    Sacha shouldn’t even be in the picture at this point, unless it’s to round out the scrimages during practice. And even that is a poor choice.

  25. I’d rate Edu higher, both for his passing ability in tight quarters and for his physical presence. I get what you’re saying about Clark, and I’ve always been a fan, but I think the position is Edu’s to lose.

    What’s great is that we have a very solid second choice to start against Slovenia or Algeria. I’m not worried about our defensive midfielders.

  26. So many people blame the second half collapse against brazil to bbradley’s “pack it in” tactics.

    Was there really any difference in approach between brazil 2.0 and spain in the semi? We were under siege in both games, absorbing pressure for 178 out of 180 minutes.

    When the ball bounces your way, you get one of the greatest victories in team history. When it doesn’t, you lose a heartbreaker.

    But if you second-guess the brazil strategy, you’re arguing against the way we played against spain as well.

  27. yeah, out of the 30 guys in camp, 28 is about right. I’m pretty sure we could slot Guzan in at midfield in a pinch and he would be more effective than Sacha.

  28. Wade:

    Careful with the positive comments that add to the discussion…this is the Internet, after all, and everyone must be run down as if you can do multiples better.

  29. Bradley changed the line-up after our first two losses, and the Brazil blowout in the group stage was DIRECTLY attributable to Beasley two mistakes.

    The second loss against Brazil was because Bradley had us come out conservatively in the second half, instead of continuing to attack. The Brazilians are FAR too skilled on the ball to be contained by a “sagging, packing” style defense, and we paid for it.

    No, we didn’t “dominate” the midfield, but we did have better possesion than we did against Italy or Brazil in the group stage.

    I also think “cannot create tempo” and “lacked presence in the last third of the field” are also exaggerations regarding the Clark and Bradley. They’re one of the better midfield tandems we’ve put out.

  30. We played great against Italy, until the red card. Clark was doing good, and the Brazil game you mentioned, Clark obviously didn’t play in that game due to his red card. So, moot point.

  31. Here’s how I’d currently rank our central midfield options:

    1.) Michael Bradley

    2.) Maurice Edu

    3.) Ricardo Clark

    4.) Jose Francisco Torres

    5.) Benny Feilhaber

    28.) Sacha Kljestan

    The top 5 should make the team, especially since both Benny and Torres have the ability to play on the wings if necessary. The order could change in camp because all are very close with their skills on and off the ball. Klejestan has no chance in hell.

  32. He got ejected in one game and then suspended for the next. Regardless of how well he played (and I will admit that he had his moments), i think he has to be evaluated in light of his red card, which was for a reckless challenge. I am the biggest Michael Bradley fan there is (which will surely get me in trouble on this page, but I still think we need to evaluate HIS Confederations Cup contribution based on the question of “what if” he had not been suspended for the final. And Bradley’s red card was total BS.

  33. I’m sure a few of Clark’s signature studs-up tackles will make short work of any competition in Princeton.

  34. After sixty minutes, both Bradley and Clark worry me with regard to potential cards. Bradley invariably runs himself ragged over the first sixty and after that tiredness tends to make him a bit sloppy. Clark, in addition to a penchant for slide tackles, doesn’t seem to have the vision that Feilhaber, Torres and Edu have. I know that Bradley is a lock to start, but I am hoping for someone other than Clark beside him. Having said that, I have not seen any of his performances since going to Germany and maybe his game has changed a bit.

  35. Let’s not go overboard. “Controlling possession” and “created numerous chances” was far from the truth. We got blown out the first two games because we got exposed down the middle time after time and our defeat against Brazil was down to a lack of control from the midfield.

    Bradley and Clark are good at covering space and breaking up plays but together they can not create any tempo and lacked presence in the last third of the field.

    They did well surely, but let’s not create a tall tale.

  36. You don’t think he’s a key contributor because he got a red card? Really?

    Did you watch the Conferderations Cup last summer. The Bradley-Clark tandem in the midfield was as solid of a midfield as I’ve ever seen the U.S. put forward, and against strong competition. They did very well controlling possession, and they created numerous chances with service to the forwards and out wide.

    Bundesliga teams don’t hand out contracts, and despite a nagging injury, he was able to earn a starting position towards the end of the season with Eintracht, and earned a 3 year contract extension. I think the only legitimate contenders to the starting job in central midfield with Bradley are Edu and Feilhaber. Torres I just don’t think is quite good enough, nor Kljestan.

  37. The battle for the other starting central midfielder should be interesting. Each guy brings something a little different than the other. Its a nice tactical advantage to have that diversity.


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