Sporting Kansas City gave Josh Gardner an extended look two years ago after he impressed them during an open tryout.
Gardner, 30, stuck around to train with the regulars as a trialist, but he wasn’t offered a roster spot — although he regained a toehold in MLS with the Columbus Crew that season.
On Wednesday, Gardner’s MLS resurgence came full circle when Sporting KC traded its highest second-round pick — No. 32 overall — to Montreal in exchange for the versatile left-footed veteran.
“I had spoken with my agent, and he said there was some interest from a few teams, including Kansas City,” Gardner said. “I told him, ‘Whatever you have to do, do it.’”
Originally drafted 13th overall from the University of Cincinnati in 2004 by the Los Angeles Galaxy, Gardner — who is listed as a midfielder but also adds depth behind Seth Sinovic at left back and can play left wing if needed — has three goals and five assists in 49 career MLS appearances, including 38 starts.
He only made three appearance his first two seasons with the Galaxy but cracked the starting lineup in 2006 before David Beckham’s arrival pushed him out in Los Angeles.
“I remember that conference call when Beckham was on Skype and said he was happy to be coming there,” Gardner said. “I had three coaches in my time there and really didn’t develop as much as I would have liked anyway, so I wanted to go somewhere I could get some games in.”
He spent two seasons with the United Soccer League’s Seattle Sounders and then moved on to the North American Soccer League’s Carolina RailHawks for two years, earning MVP honors in 2010.
“I got a ton of games under my belt, and now I’m more confident as a player,” said Gardner, who returned to MLS in 2011 with Columbus, appearing in 22 games (21 starts) and scoring two goals with two assists in his only season with the Crew.
Gardner joined Montreal via the expansion draft, but after an early-season injury he only made six appearances and five starts for the Impact in 2012.
“I’m probably a professional journeyman,” Gardner said. “That should be my new title, but I’m looking forward to hopefully laying some roots in Kansas City.”
With the MLS regular season, a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title to defend and a berth in CONCACAF Champions League, there should be plenty of minutes for Gardner, especially with midfielder Roger Espinoza’s impending transfer to Wigan Athletic.