A night when Crew SC’s attackers finally found their finishing boots and built a 3-1 lead over New York City FC with ten minutes to go, one never could have imagined that the outcome of the game would be determined by a miraculous shot-stopping sprawl by goalkeeper Steve Clark.
After a penalty and mistaken-identity red card brought New York City back to within a goal and a man advantage, Crew SC looked to weather the storm as NYC threw everyone forward in search of the equalizer. In the 93rd minute, the internal monologue of nearly everyone in the stadium was that slow motion “Noooooooooooo” from the movies. Khiry Shelton whipped in a perfect cross to the far post, where two New Yorkers outraced their black-clad markers to the danger zone. On the receiving end of the cross, NYC’s Patrick Mullins lunged to redirect the ball toward the Crew SC goal from just a few feet away. With no time to spare, Clark was already mid-dive before the ball even got to Mullins. His only hope was anticipation. From that range, there would be no time to react. When Mullins redirected the ball on frame, it hit Clark’s extended right arm, caromed off his left arm, and then trickled back toward the goal before Clark smothered it in front of the line.
Clark described the play as “old school goalkeeping” where the goalie is on his line making the save.
“It was a really good ball,” Clark said of the cross. “I don’t remember who played it, but I remember the ball being pretty large in my eyes. At that point, you’re just hoping to come up with it, you know? Nine out of ten times it’s probably in the back of your net, but thankfully tonight it was the one.”
Clark’s teammates marveled at his last-gasp heroics.
“Steve Clark, man, the guy has no pulse,” said midfielder Wil Trapp. “He’s just a killer. You hope your goalkeeper will make that save, and I’ll probably watch it again, but in real-time, it was incredible. It’s not surprising because that’s just the guy that he is.”
If Clark did indeed lower his heartrate to a Hannibal Lecter-esque beats-per-minute with the game on the line, in his view, it’s just the nature of playing goalkeeper.
“At that point in the game, you either get really calm or you’re probably not playing the position anymore,” he said. “For me, that was the calmest I was all game.”
His calmness averted calamity.
“That’s vintage Steve Clark,” said Crew SC Sporting Director & Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. “He’s been known to do that over the course of his time here and that’s why he is who he is. That save gets you two points, for sure.”
And what an important two points they were. Crew SC was winless after five games and they held a 3-1 lead at home in the 85th minute. Coming away with anything but a win would have been a huge letdown in the stands and in the locker room. Now the talk of the winless streak is over. Not that Clark cared much about such chatter anyway.
“No, not at all,” Clark said when asked if he was sick of hearing about the winless streak in the press. “That’s your guys’ job. That’s the storyline early on, although it will be nice not to hear that anymore. We have confidence in the team and how we play and the process of it. It’s not always wins and losses, but how we play.”
But wins DO matter. Thanks to Clark’s clutch save, the Black & Gold secured a sorely needed victory.