Matthew Clare has played professional soccer in seven cities in a brief career. It’s part of the life of a minor-league player, but it’s never easy to move on to the next city, especially when it’s out of the player’s control.
Clare was traded last month by Syracuse to the Wings, his third MISL team in less than two seasons. Even though the transition to Wichita has been relatively easy because of the presence of previous teammates and acquaintances, the suddenness of the trade stays with Clare.
He’ll make his first appearance in Wichita on Friday night, along with former Syracuse teammate Andre Berenzon, as the Wings play at Hartman Arena for the first time since Nov. 23. The Wings are 2-6, tied for the fewest wins in the league with Chicago.
“Once you sign with a team you never really think about the next team you’re going to,” said Clare, a midfielder. “You obviously come to one team to fulfill your role as a player with a specific team. If things happen where you have to go, you work on that as an individual and you adapt to the new style of play that each team has.”
Clare was Norfolk’s second-leading scorer last season, behind another new Wings player, Miguel Ferrer, before signing during the offseason with Syracuse. Like the Wings, Syracuse started slowly and made the trade out of a sense of urgency, acquiring Wichita midfielders Jamar Beasley and Bryan Perez.
The Wings are still struggling to score, totaling single-digit points in five of their last six games and notching 12 points in an overtime win over Syracuse. But Clare should help. His seven-point output against his former team on Dec. 8 moved him to fifth on the team in scoring.
Clare has had strong numbers with the previous two teams, too. Before the trade, he had 12 points in six games with the Silver Knights. He has yet to experience a prolonged stretch of success in the MISL, though; Norfolk had the league’s worst record last season and Syracuse and Wichita haven’t fared much better.
“I don’t look at it as (about) myself,” Clare said. “It’s always good to score goals, it’s always good to have points, it’s always good to do that to help the team. But if the team’s not winning, no matter how much success you have personally, it still doesn’t help the fact that your team is not winning.”
Clare has felt comfortable in Wichita since the trade because of the presence of Ferrer and Berenzon. It’s a situation the 24-year-old has had to endure multiple times as an outdoor player. Though much of his experience has been with teams in Florida, Clare is still often on the move, playing in Bradenton, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale along with a stop in West Virginia.
It’s the life Clare essentially volunteered for. His father played soccer professionally and Clare pursued his opportunities in the game vigorously, playing for well-established club teams. His goal, he said, is to continue playing indoor soccer while looking to play outdoors overseas.
“With my dad playing professionally it kind of gave me that drive because I was always around that atmosphere,” Clare said. “I always liked going to training with them, so as a kid growing up that’s what I wanted to do.”