MONTREAL – Patrice Bernier wasn’t expecting this milestone at this time.
Along with Montreal Impact teammates Jeremy Gagnon-Laparé, Issey Nakajima-Farran and Karl W. Ouimette, Bernier has been called up to the Canadian national team for a friendly against Jamaica at BMO Field on Sept. 9.
Bernier’s last selection, in the infamous 8-1 loss at Honduras in a 2014 World Cup qualifier on Oct. 16, 2012, was his 49th. Having declined a call-up last year due to Montreal’s race to the playoffs and later due to an injury, Bernier now has a chance to pick up his 50th cap on home soil.
“This time, it came out of nowhere,” Bernier told reporters. “I knew the game was coming up, and I said yes because it’s a chance to reach 50 caps which really was my objective at the national team level. It’s also an opportunity to catch up with former teammates and see whether the coach has an idea of how Patrice Bernier fits in his short-term plans.”
Fifty caps is, by Canadian standards, a significant achievement.
With few games in between Gold Cups and World Cup Qualifying eliminations, no Canada international has reached the 100-cap level, and only 22 players have made 50 appearances or more. The United States men’s national team, by comparison, have had 44 players pick up 50 caps – 15 of them have won 100.
Bernier, who has scored two goals in his Canada career, has yet to speak to national team manager Benito Floro, under whom he’s never played. He thus has little idea of what role he'll have.
“He’s tried out many players lately,” Bernier said. “He wanted to build a younger team. But if he’s calling me up, is it to see me play, or has he already seen me and he’s thinking that, short-term, he wants to build something that reinforces this team’s future, which is the 2018 World Cup?”
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And Bernier is encouraged by what he’s seen from afar over the last 22 months.
“For certain games that I’ve seen, it looks more structured,” Bernier said. “[Floro] looks like he wants to put something together. Obviously, when you use many players, it’s not easy. We don’t score goals. Three times out of four, I watch games that end 0-0, or we lose 1-0 or 2-0. Maybe we’ve got to go through that to start reinforcing the team, building a structure. The goals will come. But the attacking third has always been the big issue in the national team.”