The World's Game In The Heart of the Sun Belt

Clark a World Cup starter for U.S. vs. England

The lineup sheets are coming out, and Atlanta soccer standout Ricardo Clark has been named to start against England Saturday in the World Cup opening match for the United States.

The rest of Bob Bradley’s starters: GK — Tim Howard; D — Steve Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra; M — Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey; F — Jozy Altidore, Robbie Findley.

Findley, a late addition to the American squad, was a surprise to make it to South Africa, and certainly a surprise for this match too. His speed is his greatest asset, as Bradley seeks to replace the same qualities to feature with Altidore after the loss of Charlie Davies.

And the England XI selected by manager Fabio Capello: GK — Robert Green; D — Glen Johnson, John Terry, Ledley King, Ashley Cole; M — Aaron Lennon, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, James Milner; F — Wayne Rooney, Emile Heskey.

Clark will be busy as a holding midfielder contending with England’s Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, along with the speedy winger Aaron Lennon.

A couple of live chats that are ongoing during the match if you’re interested: From an American perspective; and from England.

The pregame show is on now in the U.S. on ABC; with kickoff around 2:30 p.m.

Former Atlanta Thrashers announcer J.P. Dellacamera, who’s called plenty of international soccer and World Cup matches, is interviewed by my ex-AJC colleague John Manasso at foxsportsouth.com.

Dellacamera is calling the U.S.-England match today for ESPN Radio.

Update: The final from Rustenberg is 1-1, with Clark playing all 90 minutes. He got turned easily on Gerrard for the England goal, but that was set up by a bad pass by Michael Bradley.

American defense showed some cracks, and Tim Howard deservedly was named man of the match in the nets, but the U.S. nets a very valuable point against a top-notch foe.

June 12, 2010   No Comments

Where does Clark fit in U.S. World Cup plans?

Atlanta soccer star Ricardo Clark played all 90 minutes for the U.S. Saturday in its 3-1 win over Australia. Soccer America’s Ridge Mahoney tried to make the case for the former AFC Lightning and St. Pius X standout’s inclusion in Bob Bradley’s starting lineup against England, though it’s a mixed assessment:

“Aside from being knocked ass over teakettle in that first-half tackle, Clark did nothing spectacular. To the tasks assigned to him, however, he did most of them well.”

Mahoney figures that Clark Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu and Jose Torres all will get a look during group play. If, and how, that will play out remains a mystery, with five days before the Americans’ World Cup debut.

June 8, 2010   No Comments

Clark features in final U.S. World Cup tuneup

The current pride of Atlanta soccer, midfielder Ricardo Clark, did get 90+ minutes for the U.S. World Cup team Saturday in the Americans’ 3-1 friendly win over Australia.

But Clark, the AFC Lightning and St. Pius X product, came out with just a few seconds remaining in stoppage time, holding what appeared to be a tight hamstring. Clark has been injured in recent weeks and has played only sparingly since joining Eintracht Frankfurt.

In his instant analysis of the match, Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl, who was on the scene in Roodeport, South Africa, asks this:

“Was Ricardo Clark’s 90 minutes today a sign that he’ll start ahead of Maurice Edu or José Torres against England? (Probably, though Clark had his rough spots against Australia.)”

Edson Buddle’s two goals were a pleasant surprise, given his unlikely inclusion before the Charlie Davies injury, while Herculez Gomez added the final goal late on a terrific ball in the box from Landon Donovan.

The set-piece defending by the Americans was disturbing, and not just because it led to the Aussies’ only goal.

What a week it’s going to be to speculate on what lineup U.S. coach Bob Bradley will put on the field in Rustenberg against England seven days from now.

June 5, 2010   No Comments

Clark trying to get fit for World Cup

At the U.S. World Cup training camp in Princeton, N.J., Soccer By Ives correspondent Franco Panizo talks to Ricardo Clark and his battle to get fully healthy after recovering from a calf strain that sidelined him for most of the winter and spring:

“I feel ready, I have the mentality that I’m always going to be ready. I played the last three games of the season, played full 90 minutes and felt fit so I think I’ll be good for this camp.”

May 19, 2010   No Comments

Clark on provisional U.S. World Cup squad

Former AFC Lightning and St. Pius X standout Ricardo Clark was selected as expected today for the initial 30-man U.S. World Cup roster by coach Bob Bradley.

Bradley must pare his final roster to 23 before embarking on South Africa. Clark recently made his debut for Eintracht Frankfurt in the German Bundesliga after coming over from the Houston Dynamo of MLS.

But he’s been battling injuries for most of the season, and there’s quite a bit of competition in the defensive midfield. It was Maurice Edu, the talented member of Scottish champion Glasgow Rangers, who was unable to go to the Confederations Cup last summer because of injury, paving the way for Clark to make his biggest international impression to date.

Not making the U.S. roster was forward Charlie Davies, who is recovering from a horrific car crash last summer that nearly killed him. Doctors wouldn’t clear him for action, and the only way he could play in the World Cup now is to get a special roster exemption that FIFA allows but that is rarely employed.

May 11, 2010   No Comments

Clark’s goal lifts U.S. World Cup hopes

The teams were mediocre — lousy, even — and so was the match. Except for one crackling moment in the second half when Atlanta’s own Ricardo Clark pounced on a loose ball just outside the penalty area and thumped it in the net.

The shot by the former AFC Lightning and St. Pius X star proved to be the only goal of the game as the U.S. improved its World Cup chances Wednesday with a 1-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago.

AP

Associated Press

If you need your player ratings fix, here you go. Clark, Landon Donovan and Tim Howard won’t get many detractors as men of the match.

The meme coming out of Port-of-Spain, and one that sums up how the Yanks look overall, is that three points are three points. Another World Cup berth is virtually in the books as the U.S. has a slim lead at the top of the CONCACAF qualifying table.

In the coming weeks and months, there will continue to be much that is written about the mediocrity of the U.S. team, and how just getting to the World Cup isn’t good enough any more. I do largely agree with this thesis, but for the time being some proper perspective is needed. Beyond accepting the reality that the Americans are who they are, and that they grow up in a country that develops players quite differently than the world powers of the sport. That is a subject for another time.

It was nearly 20 years ago at the very same Hasely Crawford Stadium that a goal by Paul Caligiuri — the so-called Shot Heard ‘Round the World — ended a 40-year World Cup drought for the Americans. Clark’s goal was strikingly similiar in many ways, and perhaps years from now we’ll look at his shot as important in its own way: That it likely has kept alive a World Cup streak vital to the continued development of the game in America. Such as it is.

It sure beats what Argentinians are thinking this morning.

September 10, 2009   1 Comment

U.S. vs. Mexico: A crucible for Ricardo Clark?

Even before he confidently predicted victory in a place the U.S. national team has never won (more on that in a moment) Ricardo Clark was priming for what figures to be the biggest game of his budding soccer career.

When the Americans take on Mexico Wednesday at the forbidding Estadio Azteca in a colossal World Cup qualifying match (4 p.m., mun2, Telemundo) the former AFC Lightning club and St. Pius X standout is a likely candidate to be in Bob Bradley’s starting squad.

After numerous fits and starts that have included injuries and disciplinary issues (including a red card in the Confederations Cup), Clark has recovered nicely this summer to raise his game and his profile.

His play in South Africa, filling in at defensive midfield for an injured Maurice Edu, earned him some interest overseas, including an offer from Livorno of Italy’s Serie A that he may accept by the end of the year.

And Clark’s form is cresting for Major League Soccer powerhouse Houston Dynamo, as he scored his first goal of the season over the weekend.

With the U.S. needing three points to virtually seal another trip to the World Cup — and potentially slay the aspirations of its fiercest rival — Clark sounded quite ready for the challenge when he proclaimed: “It’ll be a great experience, and it’ll be nice to beat Mexico on their soil.”

No pressure at all, mate.

The Americans will probably be soaking up pressure everywhere with El Tricolor coming off a 5-0 thrashing of the U.S. “B” team in the finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. A re-energized Mexican attack features the young, free-flowing Giovani dos Santos, who scored during the team’s June win over Venezuela in the Georgia Dome. As one of the first lines of defense, Clark’s going to be fiercely tested.

But will it be any more intense than the consecutive games against Spain and Brazil in the Confederations Cup? If the Americans can’t draw from their experiences in those games, then they may never claim Mexico’s scalp in this “House of Horrors.”

There’s certainly going to be plenty of scrutiny paid to Landon Donovan, whose skill, leadership and brio will be crucial for the Americans to end their winless drought.

From our little parochial corner of the American soccer universe, this game represents Clark’s best chance not only to solidify a place on the U.S. team, but also to help write no small piece of American soccer history.

August 11, 2009   No Comments

Could Clark, Donovan join Onyewu in Italy?

Newly promoted Serie A club Livorno reportedly is pursuing both Landon Donovan and Atlanta’s Ricardo Clark as U.S. national team members are clearly drawing more attention following their showing at the Confederations Cup.

Livorno already has admitted that the transfer fee set by Major League Soccer is too high, and that “the only solution could be that some sponsors could invest to bring the player to the Italian Serie A,” most likely during the next transfer window in January 2010.

Both Donovan and Clark share the same American soccer agent Richard Motzkin, who confirmed the pursuit of his clients by Livorno but declined to elaborate. Clark’s contract with the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer expires at the end of the current season. He’s also been named in connection with a move to French first division club Rennes.

U.S. defender Oguchi Onyewu is set to make his AC Milan debut tonight at the Georgia Dome in the World Football Challenge. He is only the second American to play in Italy’s top league and the first since Alexi Lalas played for Padova from 1994-96.

Livorno’s purported interest in Donovan was first divulged earlier this week. The Los Angeles Galaxy and American standout forward has been in the spotlight recently because of his pointed comments directed at David Beckham.

Soccer Milan America

Oguchi Onyewu (right) in his first practice with AC Milan Tuesday at the Georgia Dome. (photo by David Tulis)

At his introductory press conference Tuesday at the Dome, Onyewu said of Donovan that “his ability can surpass MLS . . . he can play in a bigger league in Europe. I think that would be good for him.” Donovan has had brief spells with Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich of the German Bundesliga.

Clark, the former AFC Lightning Club and St. Pius X midfielder, was called into the U.S. camp before the Confederations Cup because of a rash of injuries at that position. He received a red card in the opener against Italy but returned to particpate in the Americans’ improbable run to the finals, where they lost to Brazil after taking a 2-0 lead.

July 22, 2009   No Comments

Clark added to U.S. roster for Gold Cup

After initially being left off the roster because of duty in the Confederations Cup, Atlanta’s Ricardo Clark has been added by U.S. coach Bob Bradley for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which gets underway this weekend across America.

The U.S. was allowed to add seven players to its 23-man training roster because of its appearance in South Africa. All seven players added by Bradley were on that trip.

Is this summer the last good chance for Ricardo Clark (13) to merit a spot with the U.S. national team? (zimbio.com)

Is this summer the last good chance for Ricardo Clark (13) to merit a spot with the U.S. national team? (zimbio.com)

What’s curious here is CONCACAF’s rationale for this apparently one-time exemption: That the glut of competition makes it necessary to look at more players. Except that Bradley’s initial Gold Cup roster had just two players from the Confederations Cup, including Freddy Adu, who didn’t play a single minute there.

Indeed, Bradley has planned to use the Gold Cup to look at some young, lightly capped players between the rigors of South Africa and the big mid-August trip to Mexico. Don’t Confederations holdovers — including Jozy Altidore, like Clark a starter for most of the tournament — need a bit of a break? It’s true that they won’t be available for all matches — the U.S. group opener is Saturday against Grenada in Seattle.

But if I’m Mexico, for example, I’d be a bit miffed by this shotgun move by CONCACAF, even if the bottom-line benefit might be for these seven to get in some more good training time in the American camp.

For Clark, this is another great opportunity to show that he belongs in the national team fold. After a number of years marked by injuries and a lack of discipline on the field (including a red card against Italy in the Confederations Cup opener) he knows he’ll have to battle for a place at a position — defensive midfield — in which the U.S. has some depth.

A veteran with the MLS Houston Dynamo, the former St. Pius and AFC Lightning standout is also starting to draw some attention from European clubs during the July global transfer window.

July 3, 2009   No Comments