MONTREAL – With their national cup competition already in the books, the Montreal Impact rolled into a three-week break with only MLS Reserve League games to maintain their match fitness.
For left back Josh Gardner, though, last Saturday’s 2-2 draw against the Toronto FC reserves was just the starting point on the road back to the pitch. Gardner, who had been struggling with hamstring tendinitis since mid-April, played the whole first half which was thankfully uneventful for his left leg, if slightly challenging.
“Usually, I can tell how it's going to be a few days later, but it wasn't as sore as I thought it would be,” Gardner told reporters after practice on Monday. “The training staff is doing a good job getting me back and healthy. It was a struggle, the first 45 minutes, for me – my reaction time, my explosiveness. … So we’ll be working on that in the next few weeks.”
Gardner’s situation is one to which he is not accustomed. The left back, who said his worst such setback was a pulled quadriceps suffered “when I was young,” has enjoyed a largely injury-free professional career.
During his recovery, the 29-year-old focused on upper body strength in order to stay sharp, which obviously does not compare to the rush of playing or training with teammates. Gardner has therefore felt understandably frustrated with not being able to join his companions on the field, and given Gardner’s reliability in the early goings of the season, the reaction was surely reciprocal.
“You go through your frustration, you go through a lot of different emotions,” Gardner said. “For me, a man of faith, I pray a lot because it's hard to be out there and just watching those guys. I want to be out there, help them and be better.”
With the Impact scheduled to meet the New England Revolution in Reserve League action on Tuesday, a mere three days after their last outing, Gardner getting right back on the pitch could be a bit of a stretch. The Impact’s No. 31 remains optimistic, however, that he can be a part of Stade Saputo‘s grand re-opening on June 16.
“Who knows? I think we've been unlucky with our results, but if I can get healthy and be ready for, you know, just being a part of the 18, I'd be happy with that,” Gardner admitted. “It’s first and foremost about the team, and I want the boys to do well and get three points. So whether it’s me pushing the guy in front of me or being a part of the starting lineup, I want to do that.”