Portland Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark goes from howler to hero vs FC Cincinnati

Steve Clark - Portland Timbers - July 28, 2020

Portland Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark was minutes away from his latest clean sheet victory as a member of the Portland Timbers. Up 1-0 late, this win would have the added value of sending his team into the quarterfinals of the MLS is Back Tournament.

And then disaster struck for Clark and Timbers supporters:

The ensuing penalty kick was converted by Jurgen Locadia for the 1-1 equalizer.

It was an error that was reminiscent of one that Clark committed on the biggest stage in the MLS Cup final back in 2015.

Clark was then defending the Columbus Crew's colors and his flubbed dribbling attempt resulted directly in a goal for the opposing Portland Timbers after just 27 seconds had elapsed in the game:

Back to the Round of 16 match vs. FC Cincinnati and it looked like Clark was momentarily shaken by the penalty kick snafu — FC Cincinnati seemingly sensed it — and he nearly mishandled a routine save by bobbling the ball on the goal line in the 86th minute. Only the woodwork saved him and the Timbers.

And so when it came to time to the ensuing penalty kick shootout, it felt like a potential set-up for a nightmare ending to Clark's match. It turned into the opposite.

“I'm a firm believer that the most important part is always how people respond to situations that are difficult,” said Timbers boss Giovanni Savarese postgame. “Clark is one that bounces [back] right away. When we went to PKs, he told me, ‘I got it, don't worry.’”

Clark did in fact get it when he faced Locadia once again in the penalty kick shootout. And this time, unlike in MLS Cup 2015 which the Crew lost 2-1, Clark came up with the play that helped cancel out the mistake. 

Cincinnati's Kendall Waston also missed on his shootout attempt, allowing the Timbers and Clark to advance 4-2 on penalty kicks to fight another day at the MLS is Back Tournament.