MONTREAL – Still without a contract, Heath Pearce at least earned himself a flight to Canada.
After two appearances for the Montreal Impact at the Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic last week, Pearce trained in Montreal for the first time Tuesday, having convinced head coach Frank Klopas that his health was no longer an issue after undergoing hip surgery last summer.
Pearce and Klopas stayed equally mum about the contract negotiations, but the former US international being in Montreal, Klopas admitted, bodes well.
“I look at it as a good opportunity,” Klopas told reporters. “Other teams wanted to bring him in, and we had a relationship with him and it could wind up being, for me, a steal. His health is fine, and there’s no issue so far.”
Two years of pain passed before orthopedic surgeon Bryan T. Kelly operated on Pearce in New York City in early July. Pearce, who labeled Dr. Kelly “arguably the best in the United States,” later trained at Dallas’ Michael Johnson Performance Center. A physical therapist and strength specialists worked with him as he waited for a good fit.
“I wouldn’t say that I was concerned because I was taking care of myself,” Pearce said of the silence that followed his New York Red Bulls exit. “I was still at a world-class facility, making sure that I’m doing the work to be prepared for when the right opportunity arises.
“‘Released’ is an interesting word to use. I know the Red Bulls use that, but I was out of contract, so I knew that my time there was done. I was making sure that I was staying fit and ready for the right opportunity, and hopefully this is the one.”
Klopas taking the reins in Montreal over the offseason, it seems, played a part.
“I think that Frank is a great coach,” Pearce said. “He’s shown that he can get results when things are going well, and he can also motivate when he’s up against the wall. It’s also kind of a multicultural team with a ton of experience. After playing against Montreal a couple of times over the last couple of years, I noticed that they have a great core unit, and I know that they’re looking to build on some of the success they had last year.”
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He feels close to full match fitness, he said, and is also painless at last. Getting to help out in Montreal will be a huge deal for Pearce, and if he reaches the target he has set for himself his potential new team will be a winner as well.
“Just to have the opportunity to fix [the injury] and, hopefully, get back to the level of playing at a national team level, it was my goal,” Pearce said. “And hopefully, I'll get back to that.”