Junior goalkeeper Pierre Gardan was named the Atlantic-10 Conference Defensive Player of the Week last month.
To earn that title the VCU men’s soccer keeper collected a pair of shutouts in a tie against #14 University of Akron on Sept. 27 and then with a 2-0 win against George Mason University in the A-10 conference opener on Oct. 1.
Gardan made five saves in his effort against the Zips, but only needed to make one save against the Patriots.
Gardan, who hails from Lorient, France, was also named to the A-10 All-Academic and Championship teams as a sophomore in 2015. As the regular season comes to a close, he caught up with the Commonwealth Times to discuss VCU soccer and his plans for the future.
Is the season going how you expected?
Not really — we had a rough start, losing our first four games, and then we bounced back not losing for six games and right now we lost our last two games. So we have two games to really get to the A-10 tournament in a good position.
We will see from there. Personally, it didn’t go as well as I wanted it to. I didn’t do as well as I wanted in the beginning, I did well after. But the most important part of the season is the end.
After the Dayton game next week what happens?
So if we are in the top eight teams of the A-10 conference, we go to the tournament which is the week after at Davidson and we would leave Wednesday and play the Thursday and Friday, and hopefully on Sunday for the final.
What do you do in the off-season?
We have the break and I go back to France for the winter and then when we get back we work a lot. The first few weeks we go to practice for eight hours — we run, lift, we practice indoor because it’s too cold out.
How many hours a week would you say you dedicate to soccer including time outside practice?
Oh my god, a lot. We practice about two hours a day. Five days a week. Plus a game. Then you have to take the van to go to practice which is 10 to 25 minutes depending on where we are practicing. And we lift in season once a week that is about one hour.
Then treatment which can take up to an hour. We recover and prepare for games, like taking ice baths. After the game we have to watch the video, which is typically two to two and a half hours long. And then there’s travel time when we play away. So I would say it’s a full time job, maybe even more than that.
How do you balance soccer and college?
Organization is key.
Where do you feel VCU stands when it comes to game attendance? Do you think a lot of fans attend the soccer games or would you like to see more fans?
I think if the stadium was on campus there would be more fans. But if you compare to other schools, we are so lucky at VCU because we have The Peppas. They are amazing. I haven’t seen a better atmosphere. We also have the Rowdy Rams — we have organizations that make VCU game attendance amazing.
Do you think Americans play soccer differently than in France — is the style different?
Yes. Here it is more physical and athletic than it is in Europe. In Europe it is way more tactical and I think it’s based on the way soccer is set up and the way kids are taught to play soccer here and in France.
Do you think it takes more active thinking to be a goalkeeper than it takes reflex?
Yes. I think so but the danger is that I think too much. You have to think a lot of how the game goes and where you have to be and how you have to speak to your teammates but then if you think too much about what you have to do and stuff it’s not automatic and you become slow and agitating. And then you lose it.
According to your bio on the VCU Athletics website, it says that you aspire to work on Wall Street. Why not try to pursue a career in professional soccer?
In the U.S. it’s really hard to have a job in soccer because you don’t make as much money like you do in Europe and the contracts are not as secure, I feel like. So if soccer was something safe that I could for sure do for several years then yes.
Catch Gardan and the rest of the VCU Men’s Soccer team in action in their last game of 2016 next Saturday, Nov. 5 when they take on conference-rival Dayton University at Sports Backers Stadium.
Keyris Manzanares, Contributing Writer