MONTREAL – Gorka Larrea's timing is impeccable.
The Montreal Impact's new signing logged his first minutes for the MLS club, playing 90 minutes in Friday's 1-0 win against Harrisburg City Islanders in MLS Reserve League action. In attendance at Stade Saputo was DP midfielder Hernán Bernardello, who reports have bound for Mexican club Cruz Azul. And the Argentine was talked about in the past tense postgame.
“It’s sad, because Hernan was bringing a lot to the team not only on the field, but in the locker room as well,” Larrea told MLSsoccer.com through an interpreter after the game. “He’s a great guy who helped me a lot when I came in. It’s a good opportunity, but it saddens me, because this team’s losing a very important player. We have to fill that void he leaves all together.”
Larrea, who was signed on June 11 after a one-month trial, started the reserve game alongside team captain Patrice Bernier. Bernardello's departure, all-but-confirmed by the Impact last week, leaves a door open for Larrea, and the Spaniard intends to take full advantage of the opportunity.
The 30-year-old, who trialed with the New England Revolution last winter, felt good on the field despite not having played since March 2013, when he came on for a 13-minute shift for Numancia in the Spanish second division. The Impact’s two-sessions-a-day schedule during the World Cup break will have helped him get back into fitness.
And Friday's match against Harrisburg shed some light on a possible role for Larrea in the first-team lineup. Lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation to start, Montreal used Bernier and Larrea in front of the defense, each taking turns going forward. Larrea displayed a fine variety of movement as the Islanders tried to force Montreal wide.
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Montreal moved to a 4-4-2 formation after halftime, and assistant coach Nick Kounenakis was pleased with Larrea’s performance in both systems.
“He gives us depth,” Kounenakis told MLSsoccer.com after the game. “He’s a good player that can help us in organizing the game. Now that Hernan has left, he’ll give some aspects that we’re looking to in the midfield.”
Olivier Tremblay covers the Montreal Impact for MLSsoccer.com.