Well that was an interesting week, right? After having nothing but good things to write about in my last article (Drogba and Venegas signings, Impact victory), the last week of activity seemed to be almost nothing but negatives. Besides the fact that Montréal only managed 1 point from two home fixtures, there was a storm cloud over the city all week long… And her name was Mrs. Bernier.
About an hour before kickoff of the match between IMFC and NYRB on Wednesday, the wife of Patrice Bernier, Mélisa Barile, decided to go on a Facebook tirade against coach Frank Klopas, basically saying that if her hubby didn’t make the starting 11, it would be the most awful, disrespectful thing to have ever been done to a human being since the dawn of mankind.
And then a funny thing happened: It sorta worked. I say "sorta" because, no, the coach didn’t start Bernier in the game, but her message really struck to the core of a lot of diehard Impact fans. It, um, made an impact? Anyways, fans and media ate it up big time, and it wasn’t too long that the pitch forks starting coming out for Frank Klopas.
Before we get into what Patrice Bernier deserves and doesn’t deserve, let’s talk about respect for a second. Frank Klopas started this season with basically a brand new team, considering all the players coming and going. He’s had the challenging job of massaging egos, finding the right mix of personnel, and trying to figure who plays where. Considering that he guided the team to a CCL final, and has compiled an MLS record thus far of 8-9-4 (which currently puts them in the playoffs), he must be doing something right. You’d think after the debacle of last season, the coach might deserve just a little bit of credit and respect, no?
Well, apparently not. Win or lose, Frank Klopas is enemy No. 1 in Montréal. Why? Because he doesn’t play Patrice Bernier enough, that’s why.
Excuse me, but whatever happened to that old adage, "The team comes first?" Well, doesn’t it? Last time I checked it did, but it seems as though this case in particular is special. Patrice Bernier is special.
Patrice Bernier: Impact legend?
Patrice Bernier is not some lifer Impact player, the way Saku Koivu was for the Montréal Canadiens. He started his career here in 2000 and then 2 years later decided to go to Scandinavia, where he played professionally for 10 years. When he returned to the team in 2012 for the Impact’s inaugural MLS season, he was indeed one of their best players, and continued to be thus over the course of an excellent 2013 campaign.
In 2014 most everyone on the team struggled, including Bernier. The league was beginning to improve at a shockingly fast rate, and the Impact got left behind. Changes were needed, and changes indeed came. Suddenly he wasn’t one of the best players on the team anymore. Suddenly he was 35 years old. Suddenly the Impact wanted to get serious about winning, and not only gave the team a makeover, but the management team as well. This is generally what happens when you finish last overall in any league, anywhere.
The team brought in 3 new midfielders, 2 of which (Alexander and Donadel) I think are better than Bernier (in 2015). Is that debatable? Sure. Is it worth crying about? In my opinion, absolutely not. Just like players who left the club unceremoniously in the past, (Ferrari, Soumare, Felipe, Brovsky, Issey) Bernier is not good enough to cry about.
He’s not a make or break player. We’re not talking about Allan Iverson not practicing. We’re not talking about Mario Balotelli’s antics, Terrell Owens calling out his QB, or Latrell Sprewell choking out his coach. Those players were stars. Bernier is a guy with not much left in the tank, getting a bit less than he deserves. I personally think he should be subbing in for Donadel in the 75th minute of almost every game. To me, that would be the perfect usage for him at this point in his career, in a league that is becoming super competitive.
But can that possibly be worth getting ones panties in a twist over? Come on…
2 home games = 1 point
After largely dominating NYCFC with a quick strike, offensive style, IMFC ran into far more organized teams in NYRB and DC United last week. Montréal had a lot of good possession in both games, especially against DC, but as we’ve seen all year, they struggle to break teams down with a possession-style attack.
In my opinion, it’s impressive that the Impact have managed any points with Oduro alone up top. I love the guy, but a lone striker he is not. Besides the teams that came at them (NYCFC, Columbus), Montreal faced a number of teams in July and August that just sat back and waited for them to make a mistake. You can afford to sit back when you play an offense that doesn’t have a serious goal scoring threat in the box.
Games against KC and DC were lost in the first 10-12 minutes on lazy giveaways in the defensive half. At the moment, Montréal are one of the easiest teams to defend against with a lead, because they rely so heavily on counter attacks. It’s hard to create counter attacks when the other team isn’t attacking…
Still, I was fairly impressed by the number of chances Montréal did create versus DC. I was happy to see the variety of set pieces the team employed, and as comical as it was to see Klopas bring out the whiteboard for one of them, it almost worked to perfection.
Venegas por favor
Adding to the variety in attack was the new arrival, Johan Venegas. Despite the obvious communication and link-up issues with his teammates, it appears as though he sees the play a bit differently then the likes of Piatti and Romero, which to me is a breath of fresh air. Don’t get me wrong, I like both players, but I don’t like too many of the same player on the pitch all at once.
Fact: Montréal are not a dirty team. Fact: Montréal are one of the league leaders in yellow cards (despite playing fewer games than most teams). So what gives? I did a little calculation, and discovered that 15 of the team’s 50 yellow cards (30%) this season have been incurred through dissent, time wasting, and diving. That’s a lot of cautions that easily could have been avoided. Serial offenders Romero, Donadel, Ciman and Toia maybe could use a talking to from the coach.
The team also needs a player on the pitch who can calm everyone and everything down when things start getting out of control. I’m betting that Didier Drogba will be that calming influence; the same way Allessandro Nesta was when he was here.
Patrice Bernier wasn’t the first Québecois player on the Impact, and he won’t be the last. So with that in mind, I think we all need to take a deep breath, and start focusing on the next generation of Québecois who are on the rise. Jackson-Hamel is getting more and more minutes and he’s improving before our very eyes. Tissot and the freshly minted Canadian Wandrille Lefèvre have shined at times for the club this season.
FC Montréal had a tough start to the season, but the team, who are made up almost exclusively of Québec-born players, has been on fire of late.
There’s a lot to look forward to, and to be bitter about the fortunes of one player, is, in my opinion, childish. This is a team sport, not a me sport, and honestly, if a staff full of coaches with years of soccer experience think that Patrice Bernier is no longer starter material, well I don’t know, maybe they’re right? Would it really be that shocking if they were right, and the people sitting watching at home were wrong?
All I can say is this: Thank God for Didier Drogba. By this time next month, we won’t even remember talking about Patrice Bernier’s playing time, because it will Drogba time, all the time.