MONTREAL – Part of building a brand-new team is collecting a group of players who have roots all over the league. As the Montreal Impact's debut MLS season goes on, the expansion side’s roster will engage in a series of homecomings across the continent.
First, it was Jeb Brovskey's turn in Vancouver. Now it's Josh Gardner.
As the Impact get ready for the first of three straight road games, the 29-year-old left back's memories of his lone season in Columbus are flashing back ahead of Montreal match against the Crew on Saturday (4 pm ET; MLS Live),.
“It’ll be fun to play against my old team,” the University of Cincinnati alum told reporters on Tuesday. “Columbus is very good at home; they make sure that their house is a fortress and they make it hard for teams to win. Last year we had a really good record back home, so it’ll be tough to get points there.”
The Impact have yet to win all three points so far in their two MLS games, which makes their road trip might be even more challenging than it already is. With clean sheets a priority for Jesse Marsch’s team over the next three games, defenders will have their work cut out for them.
That said, Gardner appears satisfied with the sustained efforts of Montreal's backline, especially in the team's 1-1 draw in its home debut last weekend against the Chicago Fire.
“I thought we did a better job of maintaining their speed," he said. "[Patrick] Nyarko and [Dominic] Oduro are quick, and we limited their chances, which was what we wanted to do. Defense is all about mentality and making sure you’re tough to beat, so I thought we changed that from week one. We didn’t give away anything until the 71st minute and not in the third minute like the first week, which is good.”
Gardner’s place in Impact lore, for the time being, is not based on his defensive abilities. The veteran uncorked a wicked left-footed smash deep into second half stoppage time against the Fire, one that looked destined for the upper 90. The ball ultimately crashed against the frame, a bittersweet moment for the record crowd of Montrealers in attendance.
The veteran defender would certainly have been delighted to please them all with such a phenomenal goal, but he is not losing sleep over it.
“Yeah, it was a close call," he explained. "I watched it a few times back home. But I’d rather take three points.”