Patrice Bernier reveals what has made Montreal Impact so lethal thus far into 2013

Patrice Bernier and Marco Di Vaio embrace

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MONTREAL – Patrice Bernier remembers his last encounter with the Columbus Crew all too well.

“It was a heartbreaking loss,” he told MLSsoccer.com earlier this week.

Up a goal thanks to Marco Di Vaio’s classy chipped finish, the Montreal Impact conceded two headed goals in the last 10 minutes of the Sept. 1, 2012, matchup, including a stoppage-time Emilio Rentería winner set up by – no prizes for guessing – Federico Higuaín.

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Columbus had used their heads, and Montreal could have used theirs better, Bernier had suggested after the game.

“Leading 1-0 away from home, we could have done like other teams that come to Montreal,” he then told MLSsoccer.com. “They wait, wait, wait and then they try to capitalize on the two or three chances they get on the counter.”

Fast forward seven months, and with that last sentence, Bernier could have been talking about his own team. The Impact who, in the second half of last season, sought to dictate matches and thus left themselves vulnerable in behind at times, have turned into a ruthless counterattacking machine through the first four games of the season.

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But with a first game in their "proper" home, Stade Saputo, on Saturday against those same Crew, the Impact are hoping that they’ll be able to exert some more control on the play. With the team’s wisdom and poise in 2013, Bernier is confident that gaps at the back will be hard to find for a Columbus team they won’t let take charge.

“We’re better equipped, and we can withstand pressure better with a view a surprise counterattack,” Bernier said. “Toward the end of last season, we tended to dominate possession and away from home, that was a risk: At the end of games, we wanted to keep pushing and gaps opened for players like Higuaín or [Jairo] Arrieta, who need space.

“We’re now more experienced, more mature and better able to manage those tight games and hold strong at the end.”