Rennico Clarke 2, T2 vs. Colorado Springs, 07.07.16
Eric Cech/Portland Timbers 2

Q&A: Portland Timbers 2's Rennico Clarke reflects on 2016 season

Defender Rennico Clarke started the 2016 Timbers 2 season on the sidelines, working his way back to the field following a season-ending injury in 2015. Making his return June 25, Clarke – as a team captain – helped lead a young T2 squad on an exciting run to end the campaign that narrowly missed out on the USL postseason.

He shared his thoughts on the season, his growth, favorite moments and being a team leader.

It was an exciting end to the season, a season in which you could see the team’s growth. How would describe T2’s 2016 campaign?
I thought it was steady progress. The guys kicked off a little bit slow, but towards the middle, towards the end, we left it a little too late trying to make that playoff push. It’s a young group of guys. We have a lot of development to do. The guys, they worked hard during the season trying to make that push. Steady growth for each and everyone one of us.

What were your favorite moments from the season?
First, that LA game down in Los Angeles [on Aug. 6]. It was a pretty tough game, going down, 3-0, in the first half. We went in at halftime and said, ‘we need these points away from home.’ So coming back from three-nil, to win 4-3 was a very big part of our season and helping us push towards the end.

And, of course, those five games in the end. It was something dramatic. Nobody thought we’d do it; they thought we were down and out. It was motivation for the guys – moving forward and getting that five-game streak. Those two were probably my favorite moments.

What did it mean to you to wear the captain’s armband for T2 and be one of the team’s leaders?
[Andrew Gregor] came to me one day during preseason and he said to me, he’s going to need me to help lead the team as soon as I get back, so I need to round up the guys and let them know that we have a team here, a system, a belief that we want to work on and work towards. I said, ‘Ok, I think I’m up for the job, so I’ll take it with both hands and hopefully the guys they respect me and I show them the same respect.’

Going out on the field at first it was a different thing for me. I normally don’t have a lot of people depending on me, to bring 11 guys through on game day, to give a motivational speech before a game. It’s a learning process. Other guys helped me out a lot – [Villyan] Bijev sometimes before the games helped me out, giving the team talk, getting the guys pumped up before games. My friend Andre [Lewis], he encouraged me every day.

What motivates you for the 2017 season?
The group of guys that we have. First of all, it’s a young group. What that tells you is that there is a lot of room for growth, development and improvement. And as I talk about the offseason, these guys they come out each and every day, working really hard – on those little things. You can’t take away the talent they have – there are some really exceptional guys on the team – and I just hope that God will go with each and every one of them during the offseason and get them back here refreshed, ready to go, ready to start grinding and start 2017 where we left off.