Braz gets new lease on life with Montreal Impact
Sometimes a change of scenery is all it takes.
When Toronto FC signed Canadian defender Adam Braz prior to the 2007 Major League Soccer season, the hope was that the Montreal native would provide a stabilizing presence on defence as the expansion franchise found its feet.
It didn't quite work out.
Braz underwhelmed with Toronto, playing just 13 times (733 minutes in total) during the 2007 campaign. Bedevilled by injuries and a lack of consistency, Braz was publicly called out by coach Mo Johnston (now the team's general manager) and was let go by the club at the end of the season.
Braz signed on with the Montreal Impact in January, returning to the United States Soccer League First Division team with whom he won a league championship in 2004.
Since returning to Quebec, Braz, 27, has re-discovered his best form, helping the Impact reach the semifinals of this year's USL-1 playoffs.
He also played a key role as the Impact won the Canadian club championship (over Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps), and the Impact just need one tie in their final two games to advance to the quarter-finals of the inaugural CONCACAF Champions league. Montreal hosts Honduran club Olimpia on Tuesday (CBC Bold, CBCSports.ca, 8 p.m. ET).
It's been an amazing turnaround for Braz, who was deemed surplus Johnston and Toronto FC.
"Last year was tough and frustrating at times, but I never stopped believing in my own abilities," Braz told CBCSports.ca.
"I think the game is about opinions, and every coach and manager will have their own about certain players. You see it all over the world, but it's important as a player to have a lot of belief in yourself and never lose your confidence."
Braz explained that maintaining his confidence helped him when he returned to the Impact. "That was really important for me and I was able to come back here and win a spot with the Impact. We've had a great season overall, and I'm really proud to be a part of this team that's on the verge of qualifying for Champions League quarter-finals," Braz said.
Is he doing anything different now compared to his time in Toronto? Not really.
"It was just a change of scenery," explained the Montreal defender.
"When you don't have the success that you want, you evaluate yourself and maybe change certain things about your approach or what you might do on the field. In the end, I think coming back here really helped me out."
Braz is also proud that Montreal's success in the Champions League has made soccer fans realize that, perhaps, the gap in quality between the USL and MLS isn't as great they might think.
"There is a certain difference when you look at certain players that play in MLS, but overall, there are teams in the USL can compete at the MLS-level", Braz opined.
"It's easy for people to say that the MLS is much better, but those people are totally wrong. I can attest to that because I've played in both leagues."