HOUSTON – It has been a long wait, but Ricardo Clark is finally back on the field where he wants to be.
Clark made his first appearance in training on Monday when the club resumed work after a week-long break last week. Cleared to increase his training, the return ends a long two-month wait that has cost him nine games so far due to a concussion he suffered in a 4-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls on April 23.
“I’ve had concussions in the past and I’ve been out for maybe three days or whatever and told myself fine it’s just three days,” Clark told MLSsoccer.com. “This was just a little bit different. I just want to make sure all my symptoms are out of the way and make sure it’s stable. Once I get back on the field, I want to be confident just like with any other injury.”
Clark is not yet cleared for game action and was ruled out by head coach Dominic Kinnear for Houston's US Open Cup fifth-round match on Tuesday against FC Dallas at BBVA Compass Stadium. However, after feeling “cooped up” during his recovery, getting on the field and running and playing with his teammates has been liberating, according to Clark.
He has started with running and some work with the ball and hopes to progress as much as his symptoms will allow. While it’s been a long wait, he understands that concussions are a severe issue. With league protocol guiding his progress, he’s been forced to wait while his symptoms clear up.
Clark attempted a comeback a few weeks ago, but his recovery test was unsuccessful.
“I had a moment where I tried to come back but I aggravated my symptoms so it took a little more time than I expected,” said Clark, who wore a protective helmet during Monday’s training session. “I’m still in a position where I’m looking for my symptoms to go down more, but I feel much, much better. If everything keeps going that way I’ll be on the field very soon.”
Despite the desire to see him back in action, no one is rushing his return.
“We’re not going to involve him in anything unless he’s 100 percent to go,” Kinnear told reporters on Monday. “We want him back on the field but we don’t want him thinking about anything else but playing.”
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Houston are 3-5-1 since Clark’s injury and have struggled without him in the starting lineup.
“I have a lot of time for Ricardo and what he does for the team and on the ball,” Kinnear said. “We’re a better team when he’s healthy and with us.”
Clark declined to put a timeline on when he’ll be game-ready, but hopes that call comes sooner rather than later to help Houston get on track after a rough stretch.
“Whether it’s the injuries we’ve had or the players we’ve been missing or players missing for red cards, it’s been tough to watch,” he said. “Half the time, I don’t see us on the field with more than 15 players on the roster.
"Hopefully for the second part of the season, we have all our players to get a rhythm.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.