MONTREAL – “Easily our best player this year, with Justin [Mapp].”
That’s Montreal Impact captain Patrice Bernier's evaluation of Andrés Romero. With six goals and one assist in 19 MLS appearances this season, Romero has obliterated memories of his first year in MLS, when he drifted in and out of games in the second half of last season and got suspended for lashing out at Kofi Sarkodie in the Knockout Round of the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Now the opposition is picking up on his influence on either side of the Impact’s attack: Romero has been the most-fouled Impact player in their last four games in all competitions. According to Romero, this revolution is all down to confidence, and head coach Frank Klopas has noticed as much.
“His ability to contribute going forward, scoring goals – important goals – working defensively; he’s really a threat when he gets the ball,” Klopas told reporters on Tuesday. “In the final third, our ability with the players we have; we can beat guys off the dribble, we can put the other team under pressure.”
But Romero is not quite an Impact player: He belongs to Brazil’s Tombense. The 2014 season is the second he’s spending on loan with the Impact, who would like to keep him long-term.
It just so happens that Romero wants to stay.
“I feel really good here with the club, the coaches, the people, the city,” Romero said through an interpreter. “My loan’s over at the end of this year. I’d like to be here next year. There’s stuff to do, the contract and everything, but I hope it’ll go well and I’m here next year.”
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Added Klopas: “For me, I would love to keep him here long-term. He’s 24 years old, so he’s at the age, with a lot of the guys that we’re bringing here, that you can build a team and have continuity. … We’re going to work very hard to make sure that he stays here.”
Therein lie the potential benefits: Montreal work hard for Romero because Romero works hard for Montreal. Tracking back was not a forte of Romero’s last season, but you wouldn’t guess if you’d only started watching him this season.
“He’s a guy that’s pretty quiet, but in his play, you can see how he’s everywhere,” Bernier said. “I even think he does too much defensively, sometimes! He’s an attacking player. Look at the goals he’s scored of late and all the energy he brings. This year, really, we’ve seen what we were seeing in training last year, but not in games.”