The new TSS Rovers PDL season is less than a month away. Excited? Of course you are, and us too.
In the build up to the club’s inaugural season, we ran our very popular Get To Know Your TSS Rovers series, where we profiled every player on the squad. Well good news – the series is back! Over the next month we’ll be taking a look at the new additions to the TSS roster for their second season in the league, and we’ll be catching up with the returnees and having a chat about that first year, what they’ve been up to inbetween, and what they’re looking forward to in year two.
We’ll be looking at a lot of the new guys first, and there’s no better way to kick this year’s series off than with a man we know very well here at AFTN, Whitecaps Residency alumni and former WFC2 player, Thomas Gardner.
Gardner is a great get for TSS and will certainly be one of their key additions to the 2018 roster. He may only be 20-years-old, but he brings a wealth of both club and international experience to the Rovers midfield and will be linking up with some former Whitecaps teammates ahead of starting his first college season with UBC Thunderbirds in the fall.
After finding out that he was available and wanted to play PDL this summer, adding Gardner to the TSS roster was a no-brainer for the Rovers management and after chatting with him they were left in no doubt that although he’s heading to college right now for an education, his plan for the future still very much involves being a professional footballer.
“I would say that getting him was one of our coups for our little club,” TSS’ Will Cromack told AFTN. “A guy like Thomas, whose saying ‘okay, I’ve got to make a decision here, do I want to go to Fresno or start a new path? I want to get an education, but I know I want to be a pro. That’s my game’.
“So really good have a guy like him – hungry, Vancouver guy, understands the whole scene, respects Swangard, loves the fact that we’re at Swangard. There really wasn’t one person we talked to that didn’t say wonderful things about him, so really excited about having him.”
For many, Gardner will need little introduction. He grew up as a Vancouver Whitecap, first joining the club at nine years old in 2007 as part of their Prospects program before graduating to the full Residency program in 2011 and then signing a USL contract to play for WFC2 in August 2015.
The North Vancouver native had a stellar youth career with the ‘Caps, with a number of playoff appearances, including being part of the U18 team that lost an extra time heartbreaker in the 2016 USSDA Championship game. And in all honesty, it’s crazy to think that’s 20 now, we’ve been watching him play for that long!
The midfielder spent two seasons and change with WFC2, playing in 42 USL matches and garnering a couple of assists.
Gardner was part of a trio of Residency prospects that signed USL deals in the late summer of 2015 along with Terran Campbell and Kadin Chung. All three of them have now moved on after WFC2 closed shop at the end of last season, with Chung making the move to Germany where he signed with Kaiserslautern II in February and Campbell heading down to the ‘Caps new USL affiliate in Fresno.
That move to California didn’t interest Gardner and he’s keen to keep his options open for the future, which still very much involves him wanting to be a professional footballer. For now though, he’s decided to explore the college route and committed to UBC Thunderbirds in December.
“UBC is close to home and widely regarded as a top school for education,” Gardner told the Thunderbirds website after signing. “I have a lot of friends here as well so it’ll be a lot of fun playing with them too, it’s just really exciting to come here.”
It’s a great opportunity for him to get an education, while still playing football at a high level, and is a fantastic signing for the Thunderbirds as they prepare to host this year’s U Sport nationals in November. By the time he sets foot on the pitch for UBC in August, they’ll be the third team of his I’ll have called a match of him playing in!
This summer though he’ll be a TSS Rovers. Welcome aboard!
If you haven’t already got your season tickets to see Gardner and the others play, what are you waiting for?! Eight matches (seven league and one friendly) for only $70 for adults and $49 for children, it’s the best value soccer you’ll find in the lower mainland. Get them HERE and if you can’t make it along to every match, the club have a donate a ticket scheme where you can help someone who can’t afford a ticket make it out to a game.