MONTREAL – The preseason is underway, but a couple more leadership decisions still await the Montreal Impact before the start of the season.
The Impact have been without a captain since Dec. 10, 2013, when they traded Davy Arnaud – the first skipper they ever had in MLS – to D.C. United for an international roster spot during the 2014 and 2015 seasons. On Monday, the opening of head coach Frank Klopas’ first training camp with the club, two potential candidates came up: Patrice Bernier and Marco Di Vaio.
“Davy served his role fantastically here,” Klopas told reporters. “Players like Patrice, Marco have worn the armband before, and I think that both those guys can be leaders and captains. Obviously it’s the first day here for me, and after this first phase here, I’ll be able to select one. But both these guys are true leaders. You can’t go wrong with picking either one or both of them.”
While Di Vaio didn’t address the captaincy, the subject came up with hometown hero Bernier, fully recovered from a December knee surgery. Vice-captain under both Jesse Marsch and Marco Schällibaum in Montreal’s first two seasons in MLS, Bernier seemed ever so keen to take on further responsibilities.
“The coach will make a decision, but as I said before, I’d like that,” Bernier said of the captaincy. “To me, it would be logical, and on a personal level, it would be incredible. It’d be perfect. If I were to finish my career here with the armband, it’d be perfect. I couldn’t ask for more.”
Another decision looms on the other side of the touchline: former Kansas City Wizards defender Nick Kounenakis, who last worked as an assistant coach for Greek club OFI, joined Klopas and his technical staff on the field on Monday.
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An Impact spokesperson told MLSsoccer.com that Kounenakis is not under contract with the team for the time being, but Klopas sounded very enthusiastic about the 35-year-old, whose 11-year Greek Superleague career briefly overlapped Klopas’ in the mid-1990s.
“[The current staff] are people that have been with this organization for a long time, and there’s truly a passion for the team, for the city here,” Klopas said. “They’re quality human beings. For me, it was easy to come here and have those guys on board. But I felt that we needed to add one more to complement the staff that we had.
"Nick is someone that played at a very high level. He has UEFA Pro licenses, he’s played in the backline and he can complement the staff that we have.”