Direct from Norway
Steve Clark: A Brick Wall in Norway's Tippeligaen
The 26-year-old netminder is a long way from his native Michigan. But, as Brian Sciaretta writes, that might be his most direct path to the United States national team.
BY Brian Sciaretta PostedIf Honefoss survives its first season in Norway's Tippeligaen, the small club can thank Steve Clark. The 26-year-old goalkeeper, who was key to last season's promotion, has taken his game to another level. Pundits predicted that Honefoss would be relegation fodder but Clark's stellar play has the club sitting in 12th place with the year winding down. "It feels good to be the goalkeeper I always thought I was," Clark told ASN. "I'm playing good matches, but I'm more excited about the way I'm playing and the level I'm bringing to the match." He is a long way from home. From 2005-2008, Clark was a standout at Oakland University where he led his team to two NCAA tournament appearances. He also helped his hometown Michigan Bucks of the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League to three straight US Open Cup appearances. Despite his success, Clark couldn't land a professional contract after graduating. He eventually signed with the Charleston Battery, which helped him gain perspective. "Basically, I come to training every day to get better," Clark said. "It sounds so cliche but you've trained for 11 months out of the year, it's so easy to take a training off. I just don't do that. I just have an incredible capacity to stay motivated and that really is the only reason why I'm in the place I'm in now." "I didn't really make it after college," he continued. "So I was out of football for almost a year until I signed with Charleston late in August . So I understand what it's like to lose football so I love it when I have it." That November, Clark tried to catch on with Bradford City, but couldn't secure a work visa and moved to Norway where he finally found a home with Honefoss after arranging the trial himself. He is flourishing and believe the coaching at Honefoss is the backbone of the team's future. "Everything is set for success here," Clark said. "I can't say enough about the trainers here. We have a group of guys who believe in what they're doing on the field. I think this team is only going to go up. I owe a lot of my personal success to the coaching staff here for giving me all the tools to succeed and not letting me settle for anything other than how good I can be. It's easy to plateau when you're doing well, but they're always on me and always getting me thinking. So I think Honefoss has everything they need to go higher than where we are right now." Clark has one year remaining on his contract with Honefoss and bigger clubs could be interested in a transfer during the upcoming winter window. The Norwegian media recognize him as one of the best keepers in the league. In fact, he is likely to win Tippeligaen goalkeeper of the year, but he wants to focus on the final two games of the season. "I think the way you get league Best XI is to not want to get league Best XI," Clark said. "You can't want something so badly or else you'll end up fearing failure on gameday. Of course I want to be recognized for my ability but I'm just focusing on what I can control. Another strength of mine would be limiting my actions and thoughts to what's in front of me. I wasn't good at that before. But if you can compartmentalize your thoughts, you can make big gains in your game." His name could surface in national team discussions. While Clark has never played for the United States at any level, he is the best performing American goalkeeper in Europe outside of Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, and Brad Friedel. Clark admits that it is motivating him every time he plays. "It's great for me to even be fielding these questions," Clark said of playing for the US national team. "For a long time, no one would ask me that. But it's what I train for everyday. There's no guarantee for me even if I continue at this rate. There's a lot of good goalkeepers in the United States. I'm in a pool with a lot of really good guys. I look at it as a bonus. It's a motivation for me to keep pushing. I'm always pushing for it." Brian Sciaretta is a journalist who also writes for The New York Times Goal blog and Yanks Abroad. Follow him on Twitter at @BrianSciaretta.
November 05, 2012
November 05, 2012