Clark Revives Former Success

After two months of searching, an announcement made last week named Jamie Clark as the new Virginia and James Welch head coach for the Harvard’s men’s soccer team. Clark comes to the Crimson after spending two years as assistant coach of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame and will look to build on the achievements of previous coach, John Kerr, who left Harvard in December to take a head coaching position at his alma mater, Duke University.

“We were all really impressed that everywhere he went, he was successful,” freshman mid-fielder Robert Millock said. “He was really ambitious to make us into a top level program both on and off and the field.”

Clark has had a very successful soccer career, both as a player and a coach. Only 31 years old, he has already amassed a substantial repertoire of accomplishments in the worlds as of both collegiate and professional soccer.

An assistant to his father, Bobby Clark, for the past two years, he helped bring the Fighting Irish to the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time in school history, a feat the team repeated the following year. Also, Clark coached four players who were drafted by Major League Soccer—Greg Dalby and Nate Norman in 2007, and Ryan Miller and Joseph Lapira in 2008. Lapira also received the prestigious Hermann Trophy and was named the Soccer America Player of the Year during Clark’s tenure at Notre Dame.

Clark worked with the University of New Mexico for four years prior to his job on the Fighting Irish staff and helped bring the Lobos from soccer obscurity to both the NCAA tournament and the finals of the College Cup. During his stay, the University of New Mexico’s record rose from 32-40-4 in the four years before he arrived to 61-16-8 during his stay tenure.

As a successful player, Clark was a two-time All American member of the 1998 Stanford soccer team, which went to the NCAA tournament for the first time in the history of the Cardinal’s program. He was drafted in the second round by the San Jose Earthquakes of the MLS, where he played as a starter in the first game of the season, even before he had technically graduated from college. Before a debilitating groin injury ended his career, Clark was one of five finalists for MLS’s Rookie of the Year.

“He’s got a very good feel for the game,” Bobby Clark said. “He sees the game very well and he handles people well. He’s got a very good field presence and field knowledge.”

Hopefully, Clark will be able to impart these skills upon the Crimson team, which has secured its place in the collegiate soccer lexicon thanks to several successful seasons.

“I think he just wants to make the whole atmosphere very professional,” Millock said. “In the past, we have not had a unified direction for the team and having a new coach this year might give us a bump we need to become an elite program rather than a top-20 program.”

Clark will also be able to relate to his new geographical location thanks to his New Hampshire roots in which he grew up as a Boston Red Sox and Celtics fan, which cannot hurt in his assimilation into the Harvard area.

More important than his connections to the Cambridge culture, however, are the challenges that Clark will face in his first year as a head coach. Filling the shoes of a seasoned veteran like Kerr will be no easy task, and the Crimson’s strong play in the past several seasons has raised expectations.

Not only will Harvard have an additional motive in its desire to triumph over Duke in their first match of the 2008-2009 season, when the Crimson meets up wit its old coach, but now there will also be an incentive should Harvard ever cross paths with Notre Dame.

“If we meet at NCAA finals, I don’t know who his mother will support,” Bobby Clark joked. “He could split the family on that one.”

—Robert T. Hamlin contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Alexandra J. Mihalek can be reached at amihalek@fas.harvard.edu.

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