HOUSTON – For the first time since 2009, Ricardo Clark took part in Houston Dynamo training on Sunday. And while some things have changed, there is a feeling that his familiarity with the club could make the transition back into MLS a seamless one for the former All-Star and two-time MLS Cup winner.
Both the Dynamo and Clark, who has yet to be added to the roster due to salary cap issues expected to be resolved Wednesday when Geoff Cameron’s British work permit is decided, hope the move has an impact similar to Houston’s most recent signings.
Last season Luiz Camargo and Carlo Costly played big roles in Houston’s run to MLS Cup 2011 as midseason signings, while this season the Dynamo are undefeated in eight matches since Designated Player Boniek García came from Honduran club Olimpia. It’s a promising trend.
“There’s a reason we brought him here,” head coach Dominic Kinnear told reporters on Sunday. “We know he’s a good player and, with the departure of Geoff, we wanted to bring in a good player. The team’s playing well right now, and I think when you add a player like Ricardo Clark to the squad, it helps for the last little bit [of the season].”
For Clark, the familiar feeling of being back in Houston and the current state of the franchise have the midfielder excited to return to his former MLS home.
“I was looking forward to it when I heard about the opportunity [to return to Houston],” Clark said. “It’s been a smooth transition. Playing-wise, it’s just getting familiar with everybody again. I’ve played for Dom and some of these guys for years, so too much of that isn’t going to change.”
Seven players on the current roster were with the club in 2009, Clark’s last season in Houston, including captains Brad Davis and Brian Ching. They’re as happy to see Clark as he is to see them.
“We never wanted to lose him in the first place and we’re just happy he’s back,” Ching told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s a national-team type player. It’s not going to be hard for him to come back and fit in our system. I don’t see him having any problems.”
While chemistry is not an issue, there have been some changes since Clark was last in Houston. The Dynamo now play at BBVA Compass Stadium, a big upgrade from Robertson Stadium and a place Clark said he is excited to play in. And they’ve transitioned to a 4-3-3 formation in the last two months, seeing big returns.
Clark is confident the change will not prove to be a big hurdle as he has played the 4-3-3 during his time away from the club, including when he was with the US national team in January under Jurgen Klinsmann. Clark scored a stoppage-time winner against Venezuela on Jan. 22.
“I think when you saw him with the US team in January against Venezuela, I thought it was the same old Rico out there,” Kinnear said. “There’s no doubt he’s not 90 minutes ready to go but with a couple weeks practice and seeing the shape he’s in it should be pretty simple to get him back in the squad.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.