CARSON, Calif. – When life hands you a second shot – or, in the case of Ricardo Clark, a third chance – it's prudent to savor it.
So Clark and Brad Davis may take an extra moment to pause and enjoy Saturday's MLS Cup final, to breathe in the crisp Southern California air and imprint the moment in their memories.
Since expansion in 2006, the Houston Dynamo have reached the final three times. Clark sat out both winning efforts – in 2006 and 2007 – through suspension. Also, he was playing in Germany with Eintracht Frankfurt last season, when Brad Davis was injured.
Neither particularly enjoyed watching the biggest game of the MLS season from the stands.
“It sucks, man,” Clark said. “Obviously I want the team to do well and it still is good to see them win and lifting the trophy and all that stuff, but it's a different beast just being a part of the whole thing all the way through to the end.”
Two bookings during the playoff run in 2006 cost him a spot in the final. The next year, Clark sat out nine games, including the entire postseason, for a violent kick on FC Dallas striker Carlos Ruiz. This will be his first ever MLS Cup final.
Brad Davis has already played in – and won – two. But he watched the 2011 final against the LA Galaxy on crutches after a quad injury. He led the league with 16 assists that year and finished as a finalist for the MVP gong.
“I think we were really hurting last year without him,” Bobby Boswell said. “I think it was also a big mental edge for LA going into the game.”
His absence stripped Houston of its key offensive weapon: Davis' delivery from set pieces. Dominic Kinnear will likely rely on Davis' distribution this year, when he goes up against the Galaxy again.
“It's a great weapon to have – why not use it?” Kinnear said. “If we were to have someone else stand over the ball, it's a complete waste of time. Well it's not a waste of time, but it's not using your best weapons.”
David Beckham, who knows a bit about set piece delivery himself, says that sometimes the only way to defend against players like Davis is to cross your fingers he has a poor game. “I hope he doesn’t play well to be honest,” Beckham joked.
But sometimes, just playing at all is a step up.
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