CLARK LOOKING FORWARD TO SLOVENIA
As the US national team prepares for its second game at the 2010 World Cup, central midfielder Ricardo Clark says he is happy with the team's character and performance so far in South Africa.
Clark, 27, played a full 90 minutes against England in the opening game which ended in a 1-1 draw. While he was part of the breakdown that led to England's goal, Clark is pleased with his personal performance.
"I think I was satisfied," Clark told YA on Wednesday. "I think there was a miscue on Gerrard's goal. I think maybe we could have done a little bit better. But in saying that, I think maybe they were a little fortunate with their play when they tried to pass it to Rooney and he kind of mistouched it and it went to somebody else."
Clark feels that the key attributes of this team were its ability to fight back hard after conceding the first goal in the opening minutes. The team managed to stick to its game plan of keeping England's star forward Wayne Rooney from dangerous opportunities.
"The team showed a lot of character to respond and that's the most important thing," he assessed frankly. "It's just a testament to our team and how we are playing. We had a game plan and everybody stuck to it. It showed a lot of character to come through."
With the England game now behind them, Clark and the US team are preparing for Slovenia on Friday in a pivotal second game in which a win could nearly secure their advancement to the knockout stage but a loss could virtually eliminate them.
While Slovenia is not as highly rated as England, Clark has a lot of respect for the Eastern European team who have managed to qualify for the tournament from the difficult UEFA qualifying format.
"I think England's central midfield is a lot stronger than Slovenia's but every team is strong in the World Cup," the Atlanta native discussed. "They work hard, they are very fit and they fight for everything. We just have to assess their game with the tape and go from there."
Clark anticipates that the US team will play differently against Slovenia and come out and attack more in this game and play for the win.
"It's more fun to get involved in the attack, so we will see," Clark said of the US plan. "Obviously England is a very good team and we had to contain them with Rooney, Gerrard and Lampard. We have to go out there and get it this time."
"I don't want to give away our game plan," he continued with laughter.
Now playing with Eintracht Frankfurt, Clark is one of the three American German Bundesliga players on the US World Cup team and one of the 19 players on the team that play professionally abroad.
On the roster only four players currently play in MLS and that number could fall by two with Jonathan Bornstein and Landon Donovan rumored to have interest elsewhere.
Despite that, this tournament is a viewed as a success for the nation's top domestic league as 17 of 23 players have played in the MLS. One of the goals of the league's creation was to develop the American player and it has proven to be the starting point for many of the key players such as Clark.
From 2003-2009, Clark played in MLS with three different teams and won the MLS Cup twice with Houston. Clark feels strongly that the MLS is important to him and to others on the team as well.
"There are good players in MLS," Clark said of the league. "I don't think you can write it off as a bad league. It produces great players that move on to play in great leagues. I think every MLS or European player is going to contribute to the success of the team."
The success or failure of this World Cup team could very well be determined on Friday in Johannesburg. One thing that the team can count on is a great turnout from their fans in the stadium. While England brought its traditionally large contingent on Saturday, the game on Friday is expected to be a pro-American crowd.
"I expect the same," he concluded. "Even though there was incredible energy in the England game, I expect the same, if not more, in this game coming up."