Montreal Impact's Matt Jordan: Working-class hero
Montreal Impact goalkeeper calling it quits to go into management
Matt Jordan did everything big.
He was a big-time goalkeeper in a big sports city who made big saves during big moments in big games.
So maybe it shouldn't have come as a surprise when the Montreal Impact star decided to drop a big bombshell earlier this week in announcing his retirement, officially ending his 13-year pro career.
Jordan, a 35-year-old native of Colorado, will remain with the Impact, joining the front office as the team's director of soccer operations. He will serve as the main assistant to Nick De Santis, who was appointed Montreal's sporting director on Monday.
The timing of Jordan's retirement announcement caught the Montreal media completely off-guard.
A major figure for the Impact during the past four years, Jordan was expected to be a regular starter for Montreal when it joined Major League Soccer in 2012. Jordan signed a new contract with the club in December to play the upcoming season in the North American Soccer League, the team's final campaign in the tier-two league, before it makes the transition to MLS.
So what happened? How did Jordan go from fully intending to play for the Impact in MLS to announcing his retirement in such a short period of time?
Jordan said he was approached by the club and told that if he did want to stop playing, the management position was there for him to take. Jordan originally turned down the offer, but then changed his mind when he began to consider his long-term career options.
"Upon further reflection, I felt like this challenge and this opportunity, I didn't want to pass it up," Jordan told CBCSports.ca. "They always wanted me to be part of the Impact organization when I was done playing. This opportunity was here and now, and with the amount of work and the preparation that has to be done for 2012, I don't see this job being available in a year or two."
His epiphany came while preparing for the upcoming NASL campaign.
"As I was straining for the season, for the first time in my career I was able to take a step back and look at things from the outside in," Jordan said. "Everything got put into perspective for me and I just realized the opportunity to be a club architect from the ground up … that was something that was really appealing to me."
'I'm such a competitor'
Goalkeepers tend to have longer careers than outfield players, and often continue to play into their late 30s and early 40s. Jordan felt he was coming off his best season with Montreal, claiming to be in good physical shape and that he could have easily kept going.
With that in mind, he called the decision to retire before the Impact made its MLS debut the hardest of his professional career, which saw him play eight seasons in MLS with Dallas, Columbus and Colorado, as well as a stint with Danish club Odense Boldklub.
"I think a lot of [the difficulty] stemmed from the kind of competitor I was. That was the hardest part of stepping away from the game at this point, because I'm such a competitor," Jordan explained.
Jordan first signed with the Impact in 2007 as a replacement for longtime starter Greg Sutton, who moved on to MLS expansion side Toronto FC. He quickly established himself as a key figure for Montreal, earning a reputation as a fantastic shot stopper with a propensity for making big saves.
Indeed, he posted a pair of shutouts en route to helping Montreal win the inaugural Canadian championship during the summer of 2008. Jordan was recognized for his efforts when he was named the tournament MVP.
In 2009, Jordan was instrumental in the Impact's miraculous quarter-final run in the CONCACAF Champions League — which included a 2-0 win over Mexico's Santos Laguna before 55,571 fans at Montreal's Olympic Stadium. More acclaim followed later in the year when Jordan and the Impact won the USL-1 division title after defeating the Vancouver Whitecaps in the final.
As a result, several MLS clubs made inquiries about procuring Jordan from the Impact. But although offers were made, Jordan decided to stay — a decision he doesn't regret in the least.
"Montreal has a special place in my heart. The organization is very dear to me and the success that we've had the last four years, it's been a great period of my career," Jordan said.
Right place at the right time
Jordan considers winning the 2008 Canadian championship as "the defining moment in the history of the Impact," and believes Montreal's strong showing in the Champions League led to it being granted an MLS franchise.
"For a club of our size with our budget compared to other teams, it really was a kind of a Cinderella story. … To reach the quarter-finals and to draw close to 60,000 fans, it was a snowball effect, and all of that together is why we're where we are right now," Jordan stated.
Jordan attributes his success with the Impact to being in the right place at the right time, joining the team at a critical juncture in his career after seeing little action in his three previous seasons in MLS.
"I came here very hungry to succeed and Montreal needed me, but at the same time I needed Montreal," Jordan admitted. "When you put those two variables together, some great things happened the last four years."
As for his overwhelming popularity with the Impact fans, he has a theory about that, too.
"I think the reason why people liked me as a player is that I'm just like any normal guy on the street. I never thought of myself as better than anybody else," Jordan said. "So I think people appreciated that about me. I brought a working-class mentality to my job, and I think fans and the people of Montreal could identify with that."