The Missouri Comets announced this week the signing of free agent Josh Gardner. The former Sporting Kansas City player will be available and should be in in the lineup when the Comets face Tulsa tonight at the Independence Events Center.
"Josh is obviously new to the team so it may take a little while for him to get adapted but he has practiced with us for some time," Comets head coach Vlatko Andonovski said. "He is a very intelligent player, very analytical and the strengths he brings to the team will be very valuable for us towards the end of the season."
Gardner was most recently with Sporting Kansas City where he appeared in nine MLS, three CONCACAF Champions League and two U.S. Open Cup matches before being released during the 2014 season.
"It's fun and I still want to play," Gardner explained when asked about joining the Comets. "I felt like it was the right opportunity to come out and enjoy myself, feel the camaraderie again. The team is doing well and hopefully I can help raise the level, keep the undefeated streak going and win another championship."
Gardner's decade long professional career has brought him several championships. His teams have won two MLS Cups (Sporting Kansas City, LA Galaxy), a US Open Cup (LA Galaxy) and a USL championship (Seattle Sounders). "I do not have indoor yet or NASL but I did get close in NASL (Carolina Railhawks)," Gardner explained.
Josh had opportunities to join other teams during the year but chose to wait. "I had talked to a few other team but as far as keeping my MLS salary, I did not think any of the teams could match that and with a family of five I obviously have to look out for them first."
While indoor and outdoor use the same skillsets, it usually takes a while for players to make the adjustment.
"One of the guys asked me today what I thought the difference was between indoor and outdoor, Gardner explained. "Honestly I would compare the indoor arena to the space a central midfielder plays in the 4-3-3, it's how quickly you can play in and out of pressure. In outdoor you can play a longer ball to get out or pressure and have a longer time. The pace is a lot quicker because it is back and forth transitions so my reactions have to be sharp and quick."
"How quickly can you see the game, can you read it?" Gardner continued. "Can you figure out what your first two options are if the one breaks down so you have a second option. A lot of it is movement off the ball, wanting the ball, not being afraid to get the ball and do something with it. Not being afraid to make a mistake because everybody does but how quickly you can recover that ball back and keep possession for your team."
Team captain and assistant coach Vahid Assadpour predicts Gardner will adapt quickly. "He is a smart player and has a lot of experience; he will be able to adjust quicker than a similar player coming out of college."
The Tulsa match is the perfect time for the Comets to give Gardner a lot of time. The visiting Revolution are only 1-8 and their only win was in the second game. When these two teams met in Tulsa, the Comets came away 15-5 winners.
With injuries to Coady Andrews, Ramone Palmer and Max Touloute that may make them miss the game, expect to see Gardner and rookie Kiel Williams get some serious game time if the Comets get an early lead.
Gardner played both left back and wing for Sporting KC so where will he slot in for the Comets? "It's hard to say right now," Andonovski admitted. "He can play midfield for us, he can play defense and the fact that he is the only natural left footer on the team will definitely be of value."