MONTREAL – About three months ago, Patrice Bernier was on a break. Now, opponents wish he still were.
Bernier, the Montreal Impact team captain, has taken the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs by storm. This Sunday, against the Columbus Crew in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Stade Saputo, he scored his second goal in two games, helping Montreal to a 2-1 win over the Columbus Crew.
As a central midfielder, Bernier is not the free-scoring type. He registered his career-best nine goals in 2012, when he converted six of Montreal’s league-high nine penalty kicks. That season even played tricks on his memory after Sunday’s game, when he mistakenly observed that he’d never scored in two games in a row – it happened twice in 2012.
It’s happened again this week. It feels mighty good.
“What was important was to get the team back on track,” Bernier told reporters post-game, alluding to Federico Higuain giving the Crew a first-half lead. “It helped, and we won the game. We’re going [to Columbus] with a win, which is important for the morale and the confidence of the team.”
On Sunday, the five-foot-nine Bernier also had the nerve to score on a header, which had never happened, he said, since his time in Norway in 2003. (Let’s trust his memory on this one.)
But the mere fact that Bernier makes it all the way to the penalty area often enough to score twice in two games indicates that playoffs soccer has him playing like a man possessed.
“Pat’s been doing great,” said interim head coach Mauro Biello. “He’s found his rhythm. He’s been training well. Another big goal tonight for us. In the end, everybody needs to be ready to contribute for this team. Whether you’re on the bench or in the stands, when your number’s called, you’ve got to be ready. It’s about training and being focused all the time.”
A pro's pro is how one could describe the Impact skipper. Through thick and thin, Bernier has never complained during his time with the Impact.
He’s getting his reward for it now, and in front of his hometown crowd, his friends and family, no less.
"My family’s happy, but I’m mostly happy to be playing and to be able to help," Bernier said. "It helped to look at those stats, because you feel that you’re contributing, and that we’re not leaving everything to Didier [Drogba]. It’s fun, but it’s not over. The real fun is progressing to the next round.”
And not ending up on a break again–an enforced one, until the 2016 season.