In race for match fitness, Montreal Impact captain Patrice Bernier may not be ready vs. FC Dallas

Patrice Bernier looks serious

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USA Today sports

He’s on the right track physically, but new Impact captain Patrice Bernier may pass the armband to an assistant when Montreal’s season begins on Saturday at FC Dallas (8:30 pm ET, watch on MLS Live).

Bernier, 34, underwent knee surgery last December. This has restricted him to three substitute appearances during preseason while injury-free teammates have distanced him in the chase to be fit for a start at Toyota Stadium.

Still, the Quebec native hopes to come away from this early season trip to Texas – the Impact also play in Houston on March15 – with minutes and, if all goes well, a start under his belt.

“I keep following my own path, and then, I’ll have another week to get in better shape and probably start the next match,” Bernier told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Sunday from Orlando, where the Impact wrapped preseason. “But I haven’t set any objective of being in great shape for the Dallas game. Nor am I forcing myself to be ready for a start and 90 minutes in Dallas – that’s a coaching decision.

"My priority is regaining fitness, maybe playing a few minutes there. We’ll see what happens after that first game.”

The key, for Bernier, is training every day, and he was finally able to partake in genuine team sessions in Orlando. Bernier has felt no pain or discomfort whatsoever, but what remains is building cardio both in the Montreal snow and under the Texas sun.

“There have been days when I’ve had to work extra time, because training was centered on getting ready for the games to come, so it wasn’t always very intense, very hectic,” Bernier said. “Now, we’re starting an almost full week of preparation, and we’re staying over there, which will get the team in the best conditions for the games.”

If preseason lineups are any indication, Collen Warner may join Hernán Bernardello in the center of the park in Dallas. The verdict on the influence of an expected Bernardello-Bernier midfield partnership will wait, but the Québécois midfielder is eager to partner Bernardello in actual games, where he feels they’ll truly gain an understanding – they only started six games together last season.

“[Bernardello] is the kind of player you like playing with because he’s just as interested in touching the ball and getting others into play as you are,” Bernier said. “Habits develop on the field. Hernan enjoys staying in front of the defense more, and that’s good for me. It allows me to get forward some more and enjoy freedom of movement.”