Patrice Bernier passed the test on Saturday night.
Consistently paired with Collen Warner in front of Montreal’s defense during the second half of their 2012 season opener, the Quebec native was fielded as the lone defensive midfielder in the 1-0 win at Seattle, and he held up well there.
The role will make it harder for Bernier to put up similar numbers to last season, when he contributed nine goals and eight assists on his way to being named the club’s 2012 MVP. And while he does feel he could still play higher up and contribute offensively, he appreciates head coach Marco Schällibaum giving him the keys to his team’s midfield.
“It’s a position I’ve played before, and it’s not that I can’t play well there, but I know that there are other things I can bring to the table,” Bernier told MLSsoccer.com by phone after Saturday’s game. “But the coach is showing me that he’s fully confident that I can start plays there, and it went well.”
Schällibaum also pointed out last week that “it is important for us to have a player like him, who recovers the ball well and doesn't lose it much.” Bernier’s offensive work might be better evaluated on the longer term, but the stats support the Swiss coach’s decision from a defensive point of view.
Bernier made a more than respectable 12 recoveries on Saturday, adding one interception, three clearances and four tackles. He also lost the ball only twice in his own half, and even on those instances, Justin Mapp or Hassoun Camara won it back seconds later.
“I intercepted my fair share of passes last year," Bernier said, "but not as many, since Collen and I were sharing that aspect of our play – and Collen’s more that kind of player who recuperates a lot of balls. I was in the right place today. They were trying to play the ball through to [Eddie Johnson], and a lot of balls ended up with me. That allowed us to start playing again higher up the field.”