CARSON, Calif. – Colin Clark admits it would be “special” to take part Sunday when the LA Galaxy face the Houston Dynamo in a rematch of the last two MLS Cup finals (11 pm ET, ESPN2, LIVE chat on MLSsoccer.com).
But that's less about facing his former club – which dumped him after last season – than finding his way back onto the field.
Clark, whom the Galaxy acquired during December's Re-Entry phase, started on the left flank in four of the first five league matches, but disappointing outings have led him out of Bruce Arena's lineup, and his last two appearances have been in MLS Reserve League encounters.
“I haven't been completely sharp,” said Clark, who spent the previous two seasons with the Dynamo after five years with Colorado. “Bad turnovers in certain areas where we have a good chance at goal, just missing that final pass. It's just cleaning that up and getting over the final hump as far as my level of sharpness.”
Arena says that Clark is “fighting for” a job that belongs, more or less, to Mike Magee, who also can play on the right flank or up front, but that he continues to be an “important player” within the Galaxy's depth.
“You have to work hard for your spot on the field,” Arena said, “and when you get your opportunity, you've got to take advantage of it.”
Clark hasn't done so, not at the level Arena desires, but he doesn't believe ACL tears in 2009 and 2010 have diminished who he can be on the field.
“I think I lost a step [because of those injuries], but my job and what I've been good at the whole time in my MLS career has been getting the ball one-on-one, beating a player and getting service in the box,” he said.
“I haven't had to reinvent that, I just haven't done enough of it here. I've gotten into good areas and haven't gone at people when I've had the opportunities, and that's mentally being sharp as well as physically with the ball the the feet, and choosing the proper speed to go at somebody.”
He says he can be as dynamic as he was his first few years with the Rapids, that he thinks it's within his grasp.
“You have moments where you feel you've gotten back to where you were, and then there's times when you're well off of it,” Clark said. “It's just closing that gap.”
Clark played the final 25 minutes of so in Houston's loss to the Galaxy in the 2011 MLS Cup title game, but he wasn't on the game-day roster last December, when LA won, 2-1, in the 2012 final. He knew by then he was leaving the Dynamo – Dominic Kinnear had told him with a few months remaining in the season, he said – and says he's grateful to the club for “taking a chance on me coming off of two ACLs” and that the showdown this week is “just a game for us and three points we need to take.”
If he can contribute, all the better.
“My goal is not to just get on the field for this game,” he said, “but to get on the field and help this team throughout the rest of the season. If I get on the field on Sunday, that's awesome. If it takes a couple more weeks, or even until the end of the season, that's what I'm out here working for.”