Steve Clark is coming home.
The Mason native and Columbus Crew goalkeeper will attend Lansing United’s friendly on Sunday against the Crew’s summer college program as the club will welcome him back to the mid-Michigan area.
“I’m happy to promote Lansing United and further the soccer community in the Lansing area,” said Clark, who grew up playing soccer in the state’s capital. “Soccer is growing and growing in the Lansing area and I’m so happy that Lansing United is pushing that.”
Clark, who started in the 2015 MLS Cup for the Crew, will be recognized at the match and will be available for pictures and autographs at the East Lansing Soccer Complex. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.
United head coach Nate Miller said Clark is a standout example of a player from the mid-Michigan area who has thrived at the pro level and is honored to have him at the match.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Miller said. “It’s great for the fans to see someone who is from here and has made it. I think it’s great for the community and it’s fantastic that Steve wants to come and be a part of something where his roots are like Lansing United.”
A former Oakland University player, Clark said the expansion of soccer in mid-Michigan is growing at a rate he never experienced while growing up in Mason. He believes that the addition of United to the community has helped build upon an already established soccer culture in the area.
“It’s important for the soccer community and young players growing up to get a high level of soccer in the spring and summer time,” he said. “It’s been great for (United) to come in and take the next step to further that culture in the area.”
Clark’s path to the pros began in Mason before he joined Vardar for his youth club career. The 6-foot-2 Clark then spent three seasons as Oakland’s starting keeper, winning the Summit League’s Defensive Player of the Year award in 2008. He signed a contract with the USL’s Charleston Battery but moved to Norwegian club Honefoss BK in 2010.
It wasn’t an easy journey to MLS for Clark, who said there were times he could have hung up his cleats for good. But in his advice to players at the NPSL level, he said the most important thing to do is believe in yourself.
“After you have that self-belief you have to act on that on a daily basis,” he said. “I decided to continue on with that self-belief, dedication and hard work.
“I would say that it is a great step to be playing in the NPSL and for a great organization like Lansing United.”
Many United players, including captain Austin Dunn and midfielder Alec Greene, came to the club after developing their skills in the mid-Michigan area. Clark said it’s important that Lansing United has capitalized on the culture that players, fans and coaches have supported over the years.
“I truly believe that in Mason, Okemos, East Lansing, St. Johns, Eaton Rapids – all of those cities – you want to continue building at the youth program and at the high school level,” he said. “Lansing United can take that further. To see that on a daily basis and have those role models, it’s great for soccer in the area.”
Gates at the East Lansing Soccer Complex will open at 1 p.m. Sunday, with tickets available at the field or online.
“The last few years have been fantastic with the support and the success on the field Lansing has had,” Clark said. “I’m just happy to go back and try to highlight soccer in the Lansing area and have Lansing United lead that charge.”
Photo courtesy: Columbus Crew