The first major change of the Portland Timbers offseason appears to be here.
Starting goalkeeper Steve Clark announced on Instagram that he is set to depart the club after three and a half years. It was announced last week by the team that Clark was out of contract and that the club was in negotiations around a new contract agreement. It now appears that no new deal was able to be reached and now Portland’s starting goalkeeper for the past three seasons is leaving the Rose City.
No official word has been given by the club yet on Clark’s departure, but the finality of the above post strongly suggests that Clark and Timbers were unable to reach a deal.
Clark, 35, was originally signed by the team off waivers midway through the 2018 season. He spent the remainder of that season as a backup to Jeff Attinella during the campaign in which the Timbers made a run to the 2018 MLS Cup Final. He won the starting goalkeeper job during the following year and hasn’t given it up since.
With the exception of a few injury-induced absences, Clark was solid and consistent during his Timbers tenure. He was prone to the occasional and high-profile mistake, but he also made a habit of making spectacular saves. Many times, it was Clark’s play that kept Portland in games. The 2021 season especially stands out as perhaps one of Clark’s best ever, as he anchored a defense that made a spectacular postseason run all the way to the 2021 MLS Cup Final. He very quickly became a fan-favorite, winning the Timbers Army Supporters’ Player of the Year belt in 2019.
Clark was a well-loved Timbers player and the advanced metrics suggested that he was one of the best and most impactful goalkeepers in the entire league last season. And now Portland will have to replace him.
Clark’s departure is the first real question mark that the Timbers will have to answer in their offseason roster build. They still have Attinella on the roster, along with backup keeper Aljaz Ivacic and the young, talented, and raw homegrown Hunter Sulte. However, none of the current options is a clear successor to Clark. Attinella is capable of being a solid starting goalkeeper, but he is coming off a 2021 season that he spent the majority of recovering from injury. Ivacic made five starts in 2021, but was unsteady and inconsistent. Sulte has talent but he is very young and inexperienced. Whichever additional directions the Timbers go, the goalkeeper position will be one under the spotlight going into 2022.
As for Steve Clark, not much is known about his next landing spot. He is eligible for MLS free agency, and despite his age he has shown he is a top-tier goalkeeper in the league. He is an attractive option for a team that is looking for an upgrade in goal and will likely not be without a club for long.