While questions about the future for D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid swirl around RFK Stadium just days before its farewell, the shift has been as clear as the names in the lineup for weeks. United acquired veteran goalkeeper Steve Clark on Aug. 17, 2017. At the time, rumors of Hamid’s departure were mere whispers in the wind as negotiations of the first-ever United homegrown’s contract bounced back and forth. But on Sept. 23, something changed.
Clark made his move from the bench to the No. 1 position between the posts, starting against the San Jose Earthquakes.
“He showed up, and he has been an absolute joy to be around,” head coach Ben Olsen said. “I think he has changed our culture a little bit. He is ultra competitive guy with a great spirit about him. We are happy to have him.”
The former Oakland University Golden Grizzly is no stranger to the pitch and has seen minutes with Hønefoss BK in Norway, the Columbus Crew and AC Horsens in Denmark. His latest trip abroad was shorter than expected, as Clark made his return to MLS after just six months with Horsens.
“It was kind of a surprise signing for me,” Clark said. “But after talking to Ben that first time, I have wanted to come in with my competitiveness and experience and really help bring in the new culture that we have here.”
The question in August was what brought Clark back stateside to a team that hasn’t changed their No. 1 in net for years.
“We had a great chat on the phone, and he just wanted to know that I would keep an open mind about him and his chances of being number one here,” Olsen said. “I said ‘yes,’ and he said ‘that’s all I need to hear, coach.’”
The veteran goalkeeper came to United with a confidence and hunger that he didn’t hide.
“I came here and the first thing I said to Ben was that I am a number one goalkeeper,” Clark said. “I have been for eight years in three different countries. I have played 225 games. There is a reason for that.”
The feelings weren’t harsh upon his arrival; rather, Clark was motivated by his own intrinsic competitive nature to strive to be the best. Now, with Hamid on his way out next season, and Clark looks to be the next man up for United.
“Bill is a great guy, and I enjoy training with him. I think we have made each other better,” Clark said. “The last month specifically has been, ‘what are we building here, what are we doing as a team, and how is the energy we are putting on the training field going to translate to the game.’”
With Clark as the probable No. 1 next season, the next step for the United training staff is to find him a suitable back-up.
“My job is to get him someone in here that is going to compete with him and push him," Olsen said. “He knows the league, he has been around the block, he has seen different places.”
Clark will likely close out United’s season starting in net. As fans say goodbye to RFK, Clark will come full circle before officially starting a new chapter and new season with United.
“I made my debut with MLS here in 2014 with the Crew,” Clark said. “I don’t think you play in a stadium like this throughout the world. It is so old but has so much character. All of the nostalgia is for good reason.”