MONTREAL – Last week, when Frank Klopas told Patrice Bernier over coffee that the captain’s armband was his, a prophecy was fullfilled.
“When I was 21 and playing here, [then-head coach] Valerio Gazzola told me that I’d captain this team one day,” Bernier told reporters. “But I was 21, thinking that I’m going to Europe and maybe not returning. And yet…”
Bernier quipped that Gazzola had probably consulted a well-known, eccentric Québec astrologist, but there’s nothing bizarre about this selection, which was announced on Thursday.
Bernier, vice captain to Davy Arnaud for two seasons, is a local boy. A speaker of both French and English, he was already a remarkable promotional tool for the Impact. And from day one, he’s been a leader on and off the field.
“I’m honored,” Bernier said. “It’s a nice recognition, another challenge. It’ll be nice to be the captain, but nothing's going to change too much. I'll have the armband, but I'll be supported by three solid guys.”
“He’s more of a lead-by-example guy,” Perkins said. “He’s not the vocal guy. He’s not the passionate person on the field that’s going to pick someone up by the shirt and tell them to move on. He’s definitely the identity of the team. He’s going to be that glue that brings all the varieties that we have here together.”
Di Vaio summed up the players’ opinion with his observation that Bernier is “a reference point for everyone.” Witnessing this respect clearly weighed in Klopas’ decision, but the head coach already trusted beforehand that Bernier could be the one, and not just because of the 34-year-old’s influential play since Montreal entered MLS: Bernier’s playing career is following a path similar to his coach’s, which granted Klopas a privileged look into how committed his No. 8 is to the cause.
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“I started my career in Chicago, and to have an opportunity to come back and finish my career there, I know what that feels like,” Klopas said. “I know how important it is to him and that he understands what it means to put that jersey on and represent this city the right way.
“Hopefully, like I did in 1998 when I came back [to the Chicago Fire], we can win the double this year too,” Klopas added with a smile.
And if that happens, perhaps it starts with Bernier: in the past two seasons, the team captain scored the opening goal of the Impact’s season.