OBETZ, Ohio - After spending four years playing for Norway's Honefoss BK, Columbus Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark had a bit of a homecoming Saturday, playing his first home match as a professional on American soil in the Crew's 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union.
Clark – a Mason, Mich. native who played semi-professionally with the USL's Michigan Bucks before leaving for Norway – said he had around 25 family and friends at the Columbus home opener last weekend, and that he had to make a conscious effort to get his head back in the game before the match began.
“The national anthem was fun,” Clark told MLSsoccer.com after Crew training Wednesday. “I was just standing there soaking it all in, and I had to snap out of it and play.”
Crowds in Norway were always favorable to the American overseas, but Clark said he hadn't experienced a home reception like he got in Crew Stadium.
“The crowd in Norway was great; they loved me and I loved them,” he said. “But it's nice to have the Nordecke there, and certainly [Crew Stadium] is a much bigger stadium than I was playing in over there. So it was an awesome atmosphere.”
There were opportunities for Clark's family to see him play in Norway, but they were few and far between. The goalkeeper – who made several crucial saves to keep the win alive for the Crew – said it was great to have a full contingent in Columbus for support.
“It's nice for them to be here,” he said. “They like to see me play, I just like to see them. So it's definitely a plus.”
While Clark had nothing but positive things to say about playing with Honefoss, he admitted that it was a much more difficult existence when playing overseas.
“Living and playing abroad is a unique experience,” he said. “It's challenging. And almost every single day, you have to be ready for challenges, and I'm not talking about just on the field. Getting to the post office and trying to get a package can be a challenge.”
In Columbus, just 250 miles from his hometown, Clark said that there really hasn't been an adjustment period to returning to the states. It's just been easier.
“I was at a movie last night with my fiance, and it was just nice,” he said. “There's no difficult part of it, everything is just easy. Finding an apartment, living, overall everything is just great. I have nothing but positive things to say about being back here.
Being here, Columbus, in the Midwest close to home, with the team and trainers here, I'm just happy, very happy.”