Ricardo Clark was supposed to be one of the headlining names of the inaugural MLS free agency class. Before that window opened, however, Clark was already making it known where he wanted to land.
“Houston was always my first choice,” Clark told the media on a conference call. “It was always where I wanted to be at the end of the day, and I made that known to the Dynamo. It’s where my family felt best and it’s where I wanted to be.”
The new free agency rules allow out of contract players 28 years of age with eight years of MLS service to select their MLS club, instead of going through the Re-Entry or Waiver Drafts. Clark confirmed that there was interest from teams within MLS and abroad, but that he didn’t look into those opportunities before wrapping up a new deal with the Dynamo.
“I wanted to be playing here, which is why I wanted to get in an agreement before all that even displayed itself in the free agency market,” Clark said. “I’m glad I was able to come to an agreement before needing to explore those options seriously.”
The 32-year-old came to Houston as part of the Earthquakes move in 2006, where he was primarily used as a defensive midfielder behind creative attackers such as Dwayne De Rosario and Stuart Holden. Clark left after the 2009 season to ply his trade in Germany, but returned to the Dynamo midway through the 2012 campaign and became an indispensible part of the Houston midfield.
Once known as a destroyer, Clark became more involved in the attack without a designated playmaker in front of him upon his return. In his first full season back in MLS, Clark tallied four goals and four assists—both career highs en route to winning Dynamo Players’ Player of the Year. He replicated the numbers in 2014, and then unleashed an eight-goal season last year while being named team MVP and Players’ Player of the Year.
That role could be tweaked again in the coming year with the addition of Cristian “Chaco” Maidana, who figures to be the key creative piece in the midfield. Clark said he hasn’t spoken with head coach Owen Coyle about his specific role with Maidana in the mix, but believes he can adjust to whatever is asked of him.
“I’ve played in different positions in the midfield. My early days I actually played as an outside midfielder. I’ve played as a number six. I’ve played as a box-to-box midfielder,” Clark said. “Thankfully versatility has been good to me. We’ll see once the season starts what Owen’s plans are for me and the team and just go from there.”
If the last decade is any indication, Clark will adjust seamlessly to whatever role is given to him and help lead the organization into the next phase of its evolution.
“It’s great to see the organization progress in this way with the moves we’re making, and the re-signings, and the ownership changes. I’m really excited to see what’s going to happen next year and I’m eager to be a part of this organization moving forward.”