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Spector and Clark thrive in new roles

SpectorClark (ISIPhotos.com) 

Photo by ISIPhotos.com

It wasn't too long ago that Jonathan Spector and Ricardo Clark were among the list of American players struggling for minutes in Europe, but they each have seen their fortunes change over the past month.

Spector has seen a position change from fullback to central midfield spark a renaissance, with Spector scoring goals and earning regular starts for West Ham United. Clark had managed just 16 minutes of playing time through the first four months of the Bundesliga season, but he has now started two of three matches and has made the most of the opportunity. He also saw a position changing, doing extremely well in central defense in Eintracht Frankfurt's 1-0 loss to Hamburg.

Here is my Fox Soccer piece on Spector and Clark, who have turned their seasons around and have American fans wondering what roles they will play on the national team going forward.

Give my story a read and share your own thoughts on Spector and Clark's recent success. Surprise by how well Spector is doing in central midfield? Think Clark could develop into a top centerback option?

Share your thoughts below.

Comments

  1. You can’t just through this guy wherever you want. I mean, he needs to be central so I can see him as an attacking midfielder or just a strict box to box MF but not an out and out target man…

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  2. He played foward for his club team and high school team, way back when. In fact, have several friends who played against him in this area.

    He has the general ability.

    That said, Spector is definitely a “Jack of All Trades and obviously a Master of None”.

    Good athlete, though.

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  3. I just watched the Frankfurt v. Hamburg and Clark looked very good and comfortable at CB. He marked Ruud VN very well and even pushed up a few times. Give him a few more games and then decide on if he is ready at the international level to play CB.

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  4. Consider me fully on the “Try Specs at forward” bandwagon. Also its a bit premature to crown Lichaj as the automatic heir to Cherundolo, he’s certainly promising, and im as excited as anyone about the guy, but come on hes not QUITE there yet.

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  5. I can appreciate that however, along that same vien, Rico was solid leading up to the world cup and he soiled his shorts when faced with stiffer competition. Time will tell…some guys play great for their clubs and others play great for both club and country. Only time will tell but I gotta be honest with you, my money is on a different horse.

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  6. oops…”it seems pretty unlikely that Spector will ever be called on to play their for the United States.

    I’m getting used to the weekly typos.

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  7. I’m trying not to get too excited about Spector and failing miserably. I’ve been following him for awhile, so to see him suddenly have success has been great.

    I agree, though, that the chances of Specs making it into center midfield for the US aren’t looking too good. However, in moving up to midfield for West Ham, he’s sacrificing playing time in the position that he plays for the USMNT, and is now arguably behind Lichaj in line of succession for Steven Cherundolo (although Lichaj isn’t getting too much playing time at the moment either). He was put in at LB for WH a month or two ago and just looked totally lost (granted, so did the rest of his team. Maybe it’s just West Ham). Does moving up to midfield mean either sacrificing his playing time or putting him in defense, a position that he’s looked more and more uncomfortable in for the past year or so?

    If he continues to display his attacking prowess the way he has, it almost seems like a waste to keep him in the backline. He’s proven (as much as you can in a few games) himself to be a good finisher–something that the USMNT desperately needs. It sounds completely insane and crazy to wonder out loud if he has any sort of striker abilities, but, then again, so did moving him up to CAM (when I saw the starting line up for that Manchester United game, I actually thought that Avram Grant had endured some sort of brain injury. Turns out it might have been the best decision he’s made at WH so far).

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  8. I would like to see him play CB for USMNT at one of the feb/march friendlies before I could say I would trust him getting any pt for us in the gold cup. Im still too emotionally scarred from him sinking our WC.

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  9. This was floating around my head too. Part of me wants it once just to see what happens. He was, as is constantly noted nowadays, brought up as a striker and an attacking midfielder in the Chicago and US youth systems. Could happen.

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  10. Have to give Clark a lot of credit. He has a lot of haters (see other comments), but he obviously hasn’t put his head down. Soccer can be a harsh game where one mistake can define your career.

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  11. So Clark goes from our 8th or 9th best CM to our 9th or 10th best CB. Great. Bradley will probably start him in the next World Cup just to piss me off too. I’m not convinced he’s worth an international spot at all beyond playing in the meaningless competitions.

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  12. Heather Mitts has also been left out of this conversation. Not sure why. She can play anywhere across the back line and some midfield if needed.

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  13. This. Did you catch Grant Wahls interview with Pique? It’s worth a read. When asked about the success of the Barca youth system, Pique basically said that the young player focus on technique, technique, technique, even at the expense of winning. There will always be time to develop a player physically, but its harder to get the necessary repetitions to master a skill when you are older.

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  14. “it seems pretty unlikely that Spector will ever be called on to play THEIR for the United States.”

    Spell-check Ives!

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  15. I’m happy for Clark, and glad that he’s finding a role with Frankfurt. My concern with him is that I have zero trust in him for IMPORTANT matches. Most people mention the WC game for obvious reasons, but I tend to remember another huge screw up that happened a year earlier at the Confed. Cup. First group stage game, were playing Italy, and playing quite well up 1-0 after a penalty. Then, in like the 15-20th minute or so Clark makes a completely boneheaded tackle and is sent off. Its stuff like that, that ultimately makes it difficult to trust Mr. Clark anytime soon.

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  16. I like the Clark experiment. Obviously, he isn’t quite a international level midfielder, but his defensive tools could be more at home at centerback.

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  17. On Clark – The fact that the USMNT Back Line is aging (Dolo, Boca, & Gooch – Injuries) and the next generation (Ream, Gonzalez, Boss, John, & Opara) has limited experience at the international level leads me to believe that we will see him at least tried as a CB in one of the 3 up-coming friendlies. IF he is successful in the friendlies and continues to play for his club as a CB then I’d be willing to have him on the Gold Cup squad. Afterwards he too should be phased out in order to give time/experience to the younger players coming up who will contribute in WC 2014.

    On Spector – With the tendancies of our CDM’s to get injured having another option in that possition is a good thing. Near term I think Jones & Bradley are the best pairing. Edu is a solid player who can come in at anytime if one or the other is having an off day or picks up a knock. Come 2014 I see Edu & Bradley being the starters with Jones being the support (he’ll be 32). With Torres currently not seeing much playing time at the Club level, and other options at CDM not playing in as a competative league I see Spector as the 4th CDM and a Utility player who could be used for emergency coverage in a tournament across the back line.

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  18. …….Did the guy switch to a completely different position that we had no idea he would function at? No. Therefore, the man has nothing to do with this post.

    He is on fire though.

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  19. I have him pegged for 12 league goals. Oddly enough back in August I thought he’d score 10 this season.

    How many do you think he’ll score in the Gold Cup? I’m thinking 3-4

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  20. I’d like to see both tried at centerback to be honest, maybe even at the same time. I know that sounds crazy, I think it would work well. Clark could be the athletically gifted player dealing with pacy or strong forwards, while Spector is the positionally-savvy centerback who reads the game well and distributes the ball with accuracy.

    Edu seems a better option at centerback than both, but the fact that Clark is getting minutes at centerback and Edu is getting them as a box-to-box midfielder may make the decision for Bradley as far as who gets played where. Of course, that’s assuming either/or/both of these guys starts, which by no means is guarenteed.

    That being said, it is good to have options all over the field.

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  21. Can we show some love to my boy Dempsey? 28 league goals in 134 matches for a low ranked PL side. He plays winger, striker, heck he can even play power forward if you pass him the ball.

    With like 13 league matches left, do you think it’s possible for him to score 3, 4 more goals? McBride’s league record was 10 in 1 season back in 06.

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  22. Clark and Bornstein are both two of Bob’s favorites….they will be around as long as Bob is around. I hope it works out for Clark at CB. Bocanegra is not getting any younger and Gooch just played his first full match in over a year. As for Spector, it’s great to see him scoring these goals and reinventing himself in the center of the pitch. Didn’t he used to be a striker in his younger years?

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  23. I have nothing to say about Clark or Spector.

    What I did want to mention is that as a high school soccer coach I honestly believe that many of the best players I see get pushed into the role of forward or central midfielder regardless of whether they are suited for it or not simply because they are the best option. Their best and most natural position could be that of outside back, or center back, but if the team lacks in depth then the coach usually forces their stars into attacking roles to win games. Perhaps not the best route to developing individual players, but it does help them win games.

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  24. I was just thinking that he could turn out to play similar to Brian McBride. Strong, fairly big, lungs of a horse, good touch, good dribbling, good distribution, his diving header against United showed his aerial ability and he does seem to be reliable in front of goal.

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  25. yeah…i caught a couple of his games. To be honest, I was not impressed. Just because you didn’t mess up royally does not mean you played effectively. When you start choosing the unknown you start playing with fire, especially at the international level. Same thing happened with Bornstien. I like JB and he had some solid moments playing LB however, he was exposed as someone who has real piss-poor positioning when defending 1v1 in addition to silly fouls in critical positions. Good teams look to take advantage of this. They will sniff out the weak link on that line and keep the pressure on him until he breaks.

    (SBI-The two teams Clark has started against are Dortmund and Hamburg, two of the top teams in Germany. Frankfurt allowed a total of one goal in those two matches and Clark played WELL, didn’t just avoid “messing up royally”. He’s done well against some good competition, and if he keeps doing it he’ll hardly be “the unknown”. Time will tell.)

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  26. I don’t think Bradley was worried about “sending messages to the world.” I think he realized that our midfield could not possess the ball with Clark constantly passing it to Ghana’s players. He had to make the change to give the US a chance of getting back into the game. I don’t think he was trying to keep up appearances at that point.

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  27. Should we try Clark out at CB? Yes, but I will never forgive his performance in the world cup. As I watched him walk onto the field, I told my family “we’re screwed,” and he went out and proved it.

    Those who think he was a scape-goat, whatever. If anything, he was a victim of far too much faith on the part of Bradley when Edu was playing so well.

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  28. that being said. I prefer a Bradley/Jones combo for mid-field and even then we have the likes of Edu and up and coming guys like Diskerrud. Clark still has a chance at playing a role in the road to the next WC but I doubt it’ll ever be as a starter again. Same with Spector. Spector just surrended his deputy role behind Cherundolo which frees up Lichaj but now Spector is probably 5th or 6th choice at center mid-field. No shot ever dude

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  29. Clark made 2 mistakes in the last WC and was punished for it. It’s a shame he started the match against Ghana when Edu would have been much better but that’s in the past. Congrats on his recent success. It’s good for his career and good for future Americans playing in Europe. These guys are still the torch bearers for future US players. In 30 years we will have dozens and dozens if not hundreds of players playing in Europe and some might even say “Ricardo Clark playing at Frankfurt and succeeding helped inspire them”. It’s not as crazy as it sounds.

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  30. Sure hope Bradley moves to Palermo. He’s had a respect for AC Milan since he was a kid. Maybe this will help get him a push there. Would be awesome for him. Plus he’s 6’2 and quite strong, that will come in handy against those small Italians.

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  31. Clark was “labeled the scapegoat” for the Ghana loss–yes, by fans, but not without reason. Of course there were many other factors that resulted in that loss. But whenever you are subbed out of an international match 30 minutes in and you are not injured, your coach is sending a message to the world that he made a big mistake and needs to use a valuable sub early to salvage the game.

    Its interesting that he’s playing center back now but its only been a few games. And I like seeing Spector scoring all these goals. We’ll see what happens but I don’t think there is a place for Clark any more on the national team. I doubt Spector will play in midfield either–too many midfielders on the U.S. team.

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  32. Clark should ONLY come to the Gold Cup if he’s starting regularly as a CB. His days in midfield are over.

    CB we have a good number of players but we all know Clark is Bradley’s illegitimate son so any excuse to bring him along and he’ll come. Plus if he continues getting valuable minutes in Germany CONSISTENTLY, I don’t see why not to bring him along.

    I’d prefer us to bring along 3 true CBs with Edu and Boca options 4 and 5. It’s up to Clark to break into that 3 true CB group.

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  33. clark messed up our world cup, there is nothing he could ever do that is good, there are so many people better than him, bob bradley is incompetent, blah blah, etc.

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  34. i was thinking about clark the other day when everyone was pitching in on who should go to the Gold Cup. if Clark can continue to put in solid performances at CB, i’d see no reason why he shouldn’t be considered. his style of play seems to fit a CB more than a midfielder anyway and i’ve always felt he wasn’t a consistent enough passer to be an effective midfielder. with more time on the ball at CB, he should probably be amore effective passer than when he’s constantly being closed down. he’s always been a tough defender and good tackler, so if he can continue to impress at the position, i’d like to see it tried with the full team. why not?

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