But with Octavio Zambrano as new head coach, Bernier senses something different.
“From the first meeting with him on a personal basis, it’s just his message—the way he talks, it’s always looking forward and positive about the way he wants us to play,” said Bernier after Canada got through to the quarterfinals of the 2017 Gold Cup with a scoreless draw on Friday against Honduras at Toyota Stadium.
“In the past, I think we always had this inferiority complex that we would have played Costa Rica or Honduras and talked about the other team and how good they are. He talks about how good we can be,” Bernier explained.
Four games into Zambrano’s tenure is hardly enough time to rush to a judgment that he’s saving Canadian men’s soccer just yet, but Zambrano is showing faith in young players while keeping veterans like Bernier around to provide a guiding hand.
Zambrano’s story will really be written once Canada gets on the road to the 2022 World Cup but for now, it’s hard to argue with what he’s done in his short time with Canada.
Canada haven’t just hung in against Costa Rica and Honduras, they have gone toe-to-toe and if bounces had gone one way or another, it’s not hard to imagine this team finishing at the top of Group A.
“When you have a leader that comes out and puts a positive message, the players believe and you’ve seen out of the 23 men mostly everybody has played,” said Bernier. “Guys have had to come in and out of the lineup. Guys are believing and this is a good thing for this young group that’s coming, to believe that they can win.”
For the first time in eight years, Canada now get to sit back and await their opponent in the knockout round. Of course, it will be all business for them in the coming days but considering how unsuccessful they have been in recent editions of this tournament, that can wait for another day.
For the very short term, the team celebrates the fact that they are making progress in results, where it matters most.
“We just need to calm down right now a little bit and do our celebrations a little bit because you have to enjoy this moment,” said Zambrano. “Either, or, I think the most important thing right now is us. If we play like we have played up until now, I think we’re onto something. How much it is, we don’t know yet.”
Bernier, at 37, likely won’t get too many more opportunities to fully enjoy any success that comes from this culture change in the CanMNT.
But if one of the most seasoned hands who has experienced quite a bit in a 14-year senior international career is seeing positivity, he may have a point.
“These last two games have been a culture and identity and mentality shift,” said Bernier.
“Whoever we’ll face in the next round, we’ll be ready for them.”