This offseason was chalk full of plenty of change for Houston Dynamo FC. From a new general manager and a new coach to new players up and down the lineup, all that turnover has led to some early season success for Houston. 

One of the most prominent names that came into the team in the offseason is new starting goalkeeper Steve Clark, who, after four seasons with the Portland Timbers, signed a free agent deal to join the Dynamo in the offseason.  

Clark’s journey to Houston, even to professional soccer, is an unlikely one. He rose from a walk-on in college to a conference championship-winning goalkeeper in Major League Soccer through his determination and an emphasis on constantly improving. 

"I think that throughout the week, all I'm focused on are things that I want to improve,” Clark said. “That takes a lot of energy and it takes a lot of focus. It takes a lot of confidence to be like look, I want to look at my game from a contrarian point of view and be like, what am I missing in my game, and I do that every week.” 

After a standout college career with the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies, where he started out as a walk-on, the Michigan-native went undrafted and joined the Michigan Bucks in the Premier Development League.  

Clark’s faith in himself never wavered, so much so that in 2009, he took the risk of selling nearly all of his possessions so that he could travel to Europe with the hopes of catching on with a European Club.  

After unsuccessful trials with a number of clubs, Clark had one last try out scheduled before he was to head back to America, with Norwegian team Hønefoss BK. After a first season where he played in four matches, Clark won the starting position in his second season with the club.  

Clark enjoyed three successful seasons with the Norwegian team, so much so that he had caught the attention of Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew in 2013. In Columbus, Clark quickly established himself as the best goalkeeper on the roster, winning the starting job in just his first year with the Club. He was so successful in that first season that he was a finalist for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and was named the Crew’s Defender of the Year. 

Clark spent two more seasons with Columbus, which included a 2015 MLS Cup appearance. After a six-month stint in Europe, Clark returned to MLS in 2017 with DC United before eventually landing with the Portland Timbers in 2018.  

While in Portland, Clark once again found playoff success, culminating in a second MLS Cup appearance in which the Timbers eventually fell in a penalty shootout.  

Through all of this experience, Clark has developed an acute ability to communicate with his teammates, something that is crucial when a Club experiences as many changes as the Dynamo have over the past few months. This includes communicating both on and off the pitch. 

“Not only communicating about positioning, but also communicating the mentality that we want to play and that we want to bring,” Clark said. “I try to be a vessel for that. Throughout the week, I spend a lot of time doing that, talking about how we want to defend the next team up.” 

The results of this communication can be seen on the field and in the score sheet. In the Dynamo’s 2-0 victory over Nashville last weekend, Clark helped lead the team to victory despite being down a man for nearly an hour. For the 36-year-old goalkeeper, the victory felt like a culmination of a lot of the work he has put in since arriving in Houston in the offseason.  

“It feels like a good payoff for a lot of work that we’ve put in together on our culture and our mentality,” Clark said. Certainly, disappointing to go down a man that early in a match, but no one complained one minute. Look, we’re up 1-0, we’re going to stick this out. It was fun to be a part of. It really was.” 

Clark has also become known for his high-octane celebrations at the end of games. For him, these celebrations are a way to get the fans engaged with the team as much as possible. 

“We want this to be a fun environment. When players interact with fans, I think that means something. It’s an environment that people want to come to. We want to entertain. Not only win but entertain as well,” Clark said. 

For Clark, one of the best ways to engage the fans is to give them a high-quality product on the field, regardless of who is playing. This starts on the training grounds, where he is determined to push his teammates day in and day out. 

“Whoever’s there, we’re training at a high level, so guys are going to be ready to perform.”