MONTREAL -- Watching Montreal's Patrice Bernier pick up two goals and an assist in the Impact’s 3-0 win over D.C. United on Saturday, it is hard to believe he once had to fight his way into the starting XI.
After the 5-2 loss against the New York Red Bulls on March 31 when he arguably played his best game yet in MLS, the 32-year-old found himself sitting on the bench for five straight games. Instead it was Collen Warner who won the spot alongside Felipe Martins in Jesse Marsch’s 4-4-2 formation at the time.
“Everybody goes through some times when they’re not happy, they’re not playing, or whatever,” team captain Davy Arnaud said after Saturday's match. “But Patrice kept pushing forward.”
With a goal and an assist in Montreal’s heartbreaking 3-2 loss in Colorado in May, Bernier joined Warner in Marsch's lineup and refused to relinquish his spot. The Canadian international established himself as a fixture in Marsch’s new 4-2-3-1 shape, and with nine goals and eight assists to his name this season, Bernier has shown MLS why the Impact brought him back from Denmark in the offseason.
Highlights: Montreal 3, D.C. United 0
“Even though we weren’t going with him at certain moments, all along we said that this is an important guy to our group,” Marsch said after Saturday's victory. “For leadership, for the soccer he brings, what it means to the club, the community, everything. Huge guy. Now that he’s really adapted, and now, we’ve changed the way we play a little bit to help him, and everything else, I think that he’s just taken off and gotten better and better.”
In Saturday’s six-pointer against United, Bernier was once again firing on all cylinders. The Brossard, Québec native made his presence felt at both ends of the Stade Saputo field.
And if the offensive contribution was obvious, Bernier also proved comfortable doing the dirty work alongside Warner. According to Opta statistics, only Impact left back Dennis Iapichino and D.C. United’s Marcelo Saragosa made more recoveries than Bernier’s nine.
But soccer is about scoring goals, and Bernier is good at that, too. Perfect on penalty kicks this season, the Impact No. 8 added to his spot kick tally against DC and capped the evening with a gorgeous stoppage time dribble move for Montreal's third. And once again, the Stade Saputo crowd was chanting his name.
“It’s great to see, Marsch said. “I know the fans love him, and they should. They should. Because he’s been great.”