MONTREAL – The Impact may welcome their captain back into the XI this week in Kansas City.
With Montreal likely to bolster their middle to withstand the Sporting KC pressure when they visit Sporting Park this Saturday (8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE), head coach Frank Klopas confirmed on Thursday that Designated Player midfielder Hernan Bernardello is still struggling with an ankle injury opens the door that much wider for captain Patrice Bernier to return to the starting lineup.
Bernier last started on March 23, when the Seattle Sounders won 2-0 at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. Two short substitute appearances followed for the 34-year-old, who missed part of preseason because of an offseason knee surgery.
Having maintained that only minutes on the field could get him fitter at this point, Bernier felt good playing the entire second half last weekend against Chicago, and he appears ready to put this frustrating start to the season behind him.
“In the end, the Montreal Impact’s not only me,” Bernier told reporters earlier this week. “Of course, I want to play and I know what I can contribute, but in the end, [Klopas] makes the decisions that seem right for the team. I also consider where I’m coming back from, and we sat down and we’re on the same page. We’ll keep going forward. Many games remain.”
Such words from Bernier, who has played every minute of Montreal’s six games against Sporting in MLS and scored two goals in the process, have to please Klopas, who paid tribute to Bernier’s leadership and love of the jersey.
“He brings that level of respect,” Klopas told reporters on Thursday. “He’s been a fantastic player. He’s played overseas, so he brings that, and I think it’s just a matter of leading the group in good moments and in difficult moments, when you’re on the field or when you’re not on the field. You have to be the leader, which he is.
“Every game is different,” Klopas continued. “I'm telling you, I rely on every player on the team. Games are one way that I evaluate players, also in training. Guys are going to get opportunities based on that. Whoever’s going to compete, they’re going to play on my team.”