By Bill Reno (@letsallsoccer)
Well it wasn’t Steve Clark’s best game. The first minute disaster will be the lasting memory for all Crew fans. Even when Columbus scored to make it 2-1 early in the game, it still felt like Columbus was trying to recover from an insurmountable debt. The gaffe was replayed at least twenty times over the duration of the broadcast. However Clark was far from the worst problem on the field. Anyone that wants to put the loss on Clark’s shoulders is ignoring the other 89 minutes of the game.
In the same half, he saves a low near post strike that half the goalkeepers in the league would rush out and get beat before getting set. He sets up shop and makes a save when he should have been moping over the scoreline. The save, for whatever reason, isn’t in any highlight video but it’s the best save of the game.
In the 71st minute, a header finds the back post and Clark awkwardly bats it out for a corner, stopping a completely wide open Rodney Wallace from tucking away an easy third goal. 81st minute, he stops Nat Borchers from scoring a header from two yards out. The post-to-post scramble stopped a goal that would have put the game out of reach. Forty seconds later he tips over a shot heading towards the top corner. Yet again, Clark came to Columbus’ rescue after the Crew struggled to contain Portland’s offense. Clark managed to complete literally all twenty-two passes after the first goal while, on the other side of the pitch, Adam Kwarasey’s biggest contribution to the game was the gifted goal to Columbus and a few collected crosses.
As for the goal specifically, it’s Clark’s worst play of the year without any doubt. There’s no excusing it. He could have cleared it out first time. He could have played out wide to Michael Parkhurst on the right. He could have even pulled back the pass and let Diego Valeri slide right past him. There’s no explaining the mental state a goalkeeper goes through after gifting the opposition a goal just seconds into the game. All eyes are on you in the biggest match of the year and nearly everyone - probably even yourself - is going to blame you if your team doesn’t win. Even if you stop three penalties, the howler will be the reason why your team lost. But even so, Clark was flawless after the goal. He kept Columbus in a game they should have been knocked out of early on.
And look on the bright side. At least Clark didn’t, oh I don’t know, rocket a ball into someone’s face for a goal during a World Cup qualifier or throw a skipping ball destined for a goal kick straight into his own net. I wonder where that goalkeeper was on the night of the MLS final... oh wait he was literally in the broadcast booth. Perhaps that’s why Kasey Keller made few comments about the goal; mistakes happen and a player should be judged on how he responds to them.
With everything taken into consideration, Columbus fans should take note of how good Clark managed to play for the rest of the match. It speaks volumes about a goalkeeper who was able to essentially Robert Green a goal to Portland and come back to be one of the best players on the field. Crew fans should be excited for 2016.
Goalkeeper of the Year Review
Last month I said Luis Robles would “almost definitely not win” MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. Last week we found out Robles won the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. There are really only two things to take away from the award: (1) voters really value a team’s finish in the standings when thinking of who is the best goalkeeper (2) we have no clue who the voters will vote for. David Ousted actually wasn’t too far back in the voting so I wasn’t completely off base when I said he should win. Although it was interesting only 9% of players voted for Hamid while 33% of clubs did.
Congrats to Robles for winning the hardware. I still think Ousted should have received the award but Robles has been a centerpiece for the Red Bulls for a long time and the award should slot him into the January USMNT camp.
Save of the Year Review
One could make an argument for Robles winning the GOTY but there is no excuse for the Save of the Year award outside of a ginormous fan base voting for their own goalkeeper. Instead, here are the only three saves that deserve to be in the conversation for Save of the Year, complete with a mewithoutYou song.