FC Dallas President and General Manager Greg Elliott announced that the soccer club signed head coach Colin Clarke to a new contract for the 2005 season. Elliott made it clear that Clarke was the right man for the job immediately following the season, believing that he brought back a competitive fire to his soccer team.
"Colin was the driving force behind our ability to restore the pride, the professionalism and the respect back to the organization both as a manager on the field and the efforts he made behind the scenes in the locker room," said Elliott. "Despite the fact that we did not make the playoffs, this was a very clear decision on behalf of myself and ownership.
"We look for Colin to take FC Dallas to another level and finish what he has started here."
Clarke couldn't be happier to be back in Dallas. Knowing that the team made great strides last season, he still is not satisfied and looks forward to the opportunity that is placed before him in 2005.
"I am thrilled to be back for another year in Dallas," said Clarke. "I was obviously disappointed we did not make the playoffs, but felt we had a lot of positives come out of last year. I am looking forward to building upon the foundation we established last season and am excited to help this organization move into a new era with a new stadium."
In Clarke's first full season as the head coach, he helped turn a 6-19-5 (23 points) team into a 10-14-6 (36 points) club who were eliminated from the playoffs in the last match of the season. The 13-point increase in the standings was the biggest in the MLS last season and their 19-goal decrease in goals against (from 64 to 45) was the biggest improvement as well. Both Elliott and Clarke not only saw progress on the field, but the two helped lead Dallas to a 15% increase in attendance last season. That increase was the third biggest percentage increase in the MLS.
"One of the reasons Colin was hired in the first place was his knowledge of the league and our ability to get better quickly was due to his gift of assessing talent throughout the league," said Elliott. "He also did a great job of molding the players together and creating a team chemistry that we will still look to improve upon."
A veteran of 38 appearances with the Northern Ireland National Team, Clarke scored 13 goals including a goal against Spain in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Known as a gritty and aggressive striker from Newry, Northern Ireland, Clarke played in the English leagues from 1981-93 with six different teams. During that 12-year span, he appeared in 361 English League matches and tallied 146 goals. That long list of credentials and experience make him the right man for the job. With younger players such as Eddie Johnson or Cory Gibbs becoming the faces of this franchise and looking to take their game to the next level, it doesn't hurt to have a coach in charge with the playing experience that Clarke encompasses.
"Colin's background is very significant because it buys additional respect from the players," said Elliott. "When he speaks there is a credibility and respect that the players give to him."
Along with being a mentor for the players hitting their stride, Clarke has served as a guide for the players with potential. Two first round selections in Ramon Nunez (sixth overall) and Clarence Goodson (seventh overall) have seen the benefit in having Clarke as their head coach. Both players look to make an impact on the 2005 FC Dallas team.
"Coming in as a rookie, Colin really helped me out with how to become a professional," said Goodson. "He taught me how to do all the little things right and was always giving me good advice when I needed the encouragement."
With FC Dallas preparing for its 10th season in Major League Soccer, they will do so with a coach who has proven he can turn a group from a team struggling to compete into a playoff contending squad. Clarke's next challenge will be to make FC Dallas not only into a playoff fixture, but a Cup contender. With the help of Greg Elliott, Colin Clarke will set out to do just that.
"Our goal is to turn this team into a perennial playoff contender and in order to do that we must build around a good core of players," said Clarke. "Every special team always has a good core and we will be no different with the likes of Eddie (Johnson), Cory (Gibbs), Ronnie (O'Brien) and Simo (Valakari)."
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING ABOUT COLIN CLARKE RETURNING TO FC DALLAS:
Eddie Johnson - "Colin has given me confidence in myself and has shown that by playing me consistently throughout last season. It helps a lot when a coach has confidence in you and makes it easier for you to play out there. He allows me to do what I'm capable of doing out there through believing in me. Colin has played as a striker and knows what it takes and where to go to score goals. The experience he has helps me and gives me the direction I need to become the player I'm capable of becoming."
Cory Gibbs - "Colin does a great job of understanding the players' strengths and weaknesses. As a coach he doesn't take anything lightly and he expects a lot out of us. With last season being my first year with him, it was great and I'm looking forward to having a better season next year."
Simo Valakari - "Over my career, I have played for several head coaches and Colin ranks right near the top of that list. It is important to know you have the confidence form the coach and Colin showed that confidence in me last season. One of the strongest things Colin possess is the fact that all the players always want to play for him. That is important to have as a head coach."