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Last summer, Team USA played at San Jose’s Avaya Stadium and followed it up with a match a week later at Sacramento’s Bonney Field. Events during that two-week stretch kicked off what would be the longest six months of Todd Clever’s professional campaign.
This year, he's returned to the scene of the crime to celebrate a seminal milestone in a 15-year career. Last week in San Jose, Clever tied Mike MacDonald for the USA’s all-time cap record. Saturday in Sacramento he’ll gain sole possession of it, making his 68th appearance for the Eagles.
"Todd's a warrior," Eagles Head Coach John Mitchell said. "He's an inspiration when he plays at his level. He's displayed exceptional maturity and mental strength to be a leader within the group, and both he and Blaine [Scully] work very well together as co-captains."
Clever’s 2015 is well-documented. It started with a spread in ESPN the Magazine’s Body Issue and a trip to the ESPYs. Around those events, he and then-head coach Mike Tolkin had a falling out. After he didn’t show up for a fitness session the morning of the Samoa match in San Jose, Clever was released from the team before it reached Sacramento and never got back on under Tolkin, missing the World Cup.
The 2015 RWC should have been Clever’s fourth, a rare feat, and a massive moment in his career. If he hadn’t been dropped, there’s a decent chance he’d have broken McDonald’s record during the quadrennial spectacle.
But that’s in the past now, and Clever is soon to own a record that’s looked like it would be his since he first suited up for the USA in 2003.