MONTREAL – One of the first YouTube videos Montreal Impact fans watched when Hernan Bernardello signed with their team on July 23 featured the midfielder scoring a free kick goal for Colon in the player's native Argentina.
As Bernardello readied his first set play attempt in the 16th minute of his debut CONCACAF Champions League game against the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday, those same Montreal Impact fans wondered: “Surely he won’t?”
Oh yes he did.
“The coach just told me to place the ball in the middle of everyone,” Bernardello (above, right) said after the Impact’s 1-0 win. “And it worked.”
Hassoun Camara’s header off the free kick was the difference on the night, notching a win and a crucial three points in the opening fixture of Group 5. But Camara has such a knack for scoring important goals – it was his goal that clinched the Amway Canadian Championship for Montreal in Vancouver – that talking about it becomes almost ordinary.
Deserved plaudits went Camara’s way, but on Wednesday, the focus was on the new Impact Designated Player.
“It’s something we saw right away, how good his free kicks and corner kicks are,” head coach Marco Schällibaum said in his postgame press conference. “They’re a very important weapon in football. Thankfully we had this weapon tonight, with Hassoun scoring the decisive goal. His timing was perfect.”
Schällibaum also praised the newcomer’s intelligent play as well as his ability to set the tempo. Bernardello admitted that he felt “calm” on his first appearance with Montreal, but he wasn’t expecting such a performance.
“I didn’t think it would go as well as it did,” Bernardello said. “I kept on trying my best, looking for options. I’m glad it went well and hopefully we’ll keep going.”
Camara certainly thinks they can. More than delivery on the goal, it was how seamless Bernardello’s integration was that pleased the French defender.
“San Jose are a good team with good offensive elements that were pushing us,” Camara said. “With our organization and experience, we did well. Bernardello brought technique, physical abilities, an impact in the middle. We remained organized and united. Communication was very important.”