Ricardo Clark of the Houston Dynamo holds off Perry Kitchen of DC United in the Eastern Conference Finals Second Leg. - Patrick McDermott
Coach Dominic Kinnear finds his team once again in the MLS Cup Finals after the team secures the Eastern Conference Championship. So what is different this time around?
Anybody who knows me knows I am a person who simply hates to deal with statistics. Fact and figures can be twisted to reflect any outcome or result if a person so chooses. Manipulation of statistics is easy, and made easier by the plethora of statistics available via the internet. So as a writer, I find it exceptionally difficult to base my opinions on anything other than what my own two eyes tell me.
After all, it is easy to look at Brad Davis' 100th MLS assist and think he should be on the United States Mens National Team. Well, okay, so that example may not be the best one. Jurgen Klinnsman has a particular type of offense he wants to run. An offense which utilizes play from the flanks to open up lanes in the middle. You know the offense I'm talking about it, it's the same one the Dynamo utilize.
Some might get nitpicky and say I am twisting things to reflect my love of Brad Davis, and they would be right, I am. But the "fact" remains, Brad Davis should be called up to the USMNT, but he won't be anytime soon. It has more to do with a lack of pace than any other real metric, as by all accounts, Davis is the best left midfielder/left winger the United States has produced in quite some time.
Enough about Brad Davis, as I am certain his lack of playing time in a US kit will be spoken about ad nauseum as the Dynamo prepare to meet the Gals in two weeks time.
The real cog to the Houston Dynamo is their head coach, Dominic Kinnear. If you are a fan of the team, you know him. You love him. Sometimes you loathe him, but usually you trust in him. He is the Tom Coughlin of MLS. While his teams may not blow you away in the regular season with statistics or by amassing a ton of wins. What his teams do better than any other team is they do enough to enter the playoffs and then they turn it to a whole other level. Even Bruce Arena is taking notice, and the Gals seem to be following suit.
Head coaches don't come by hardware by accident. It takes good coaching and good strategy on and off the field. It takes good player development and recruiting. It takes good scouting and good personnel decisions. It also takes a good front office, and Kinnear has one of the best to support him.
So when I thought of what to write about for the two weeks leading up to the MLS Cup Final on December 1st, 2012 in the Home Depot Center, the question nagging me the most was, "what is different?" These two teams met in the last MLS Cup Final in 2011, and the game was nothing short of disappointing for the Dynamo. What makes this time around so vastly dissimilar we, as Dynamo fans, should expect anything less than the same?
Boniek Garcia. A healthy Brad Davis. A healthy Brian Ching in a super sub role. A dancing bear. An English golden boy dubbed by some as the "Shiny New Toy". But most of all? Two weeks of rest for Ricardo Clark.
Ricardo Clark returned to the Dynamo after a couple of seasons in Europe. His experience there taught him to be tough, even tougher than he was before. It taught him how to be patient and to keep his emotions in-check. It taught him how to push through when he thought he couldn't. It also taught him the value of being a leader, even though in Europe few would have called him one.
When Ricardo Clark returned the Dynamo, they were in need of some sort of spark or change in attitude. Ricardo Clark is that and more. He has brought a fire and determination back to the team. I made a remark in a post-match write-up a month or two back mentioning the look I saw in his eyes during that game. There was a fire the likes of which I hadn't seen in any man's eyes on the Dynamo.
He was back, but not just back to earn a check. He was back to prove something to himself, to the naysayers and to the world. Ricardo Clark worked with Adam Moffat and over the few games immediately following his return they developed a rapport with one another. As Rico pushed up higher on the pitch, Moffat pulled back. If Rico slid to one side of the field to cover a player with the ball, Moffat found a position to cover the hole left behind.
In my opinion, backed up by no stats or numbers, Ricardo Clark and Adam Moffat form the best central midfield tandem in MLS right now. They are both defensive-minded individuals, but they have both found ways to contribute on offense. They both can get physical and both are extremely emotional players. They are both passionate players, but they have found ways to keep that passion in check.
Ricardo Clark going out of the second leg of the Eastern Conference Finals with an injury is devastating. Thankfully, there are two weeks of rest and recovery for Rico. Thankfully, there are two weeks for the two to nurse their wounds. Hopefully two weeks is enough time.
The Dynamo owe a lot to Ricardo Clark, but moreover, Ricardo Clark owes Dominic Kinnear a lot, too. I am pretty certain it is safe to say, if Ricardo Clark plays on December 1st, he will repay that debt in full.