MONTREAL — Patrice Bernier took no time to answer which player from Sunday’s Montreal Impact-versus-Brazil legends game he’d add to the current Montreal roster.
“A player? Cafu,” the former Montreal Impact captain said with no hesitation. “He’s 49-years-old and you see the engine. Imagine when he was 28, 29 or 30. That player is on another level.”
The right back who captained Brazil to its fifth FIFA World Cup win in 2002 scored a goal in Brazil’s win over the Impact legends. The game ended 2-2, and Brazil finished it off in a penalty shootout. For the former Impact captain, MLS in its current shape won’t see defenders like Cafu willing to sign, but collective-bargaining agreement negotiations could make things change.
“There will surely be changes in the structure,” Bernier said. “If there is more money, you might be able to attract players, because in Europe the salaries are extraordinary. If you want to attract some of these players at the right age, you need money. The good players [in Europe] are all designated players. Over here you can only have three.”
Nevertheless, Bernier sees the way MLS clubs operate with a good eye. The former Canadian international believes the league can aspire to good things.
“MLS is an attacking league that gets younger and younger, so we invest in 23-, 25-year-old players because we understand the football market,” he said. “Young players bring an added value to the club and to the league. We’ll see next year if they inject more money to bring more quality players. MLS is in good shape right now.”
Reserve team: Impact need to ‘find the best solution’
Bernier made the transition from playing to the coaching world where he is the assistant coach to all Impact academy levels. When asked about the Impact no longer having a USL Championship affiliate, Bernier admitted the team had lost something.
“We have an academy that produces good players,” Bernier said. “Now not having a reserve team maybe doesn’t help the first team, because we can’t ask players that don’t play to be excellent a month later. Also the young players, they need to have professional experience. Remí Garde can’t just throw them out there because they’re good.”
The Impact’s USL reserve team, FC Montreal, played the 2015 and 2016 USL seasons. The squad was dissolved at the end of 2016 and started an affiliation with the Ottawa Fury.
Bernier doubled down on how a reserve side could help young players by mentioning Daniel Leyva of the Seattle Sounders. The 16-year-old spent time with the Tacoma Defiance in the USL Championship before starting with the Sounders.
Daniel Leyva vs Vancouver
Just 16 years old and did very well in his first MLS start. pic.twitter.com/o9H8RkuG3O
— USMNT Videos (@USMNTvideos) June 30, 2019
“Some have the chance to move up quickly, but often times it’s 1% of them,” Bernier said. “The rest need to go through the normal steps, to play in the lower divisions to mature and gather experience.”
For Bernier, it’s about finding the “best solution for the Montreal Impact to allow our youngsters to develop and to help maintain the rhythm on the long term.”
“FC Dallas didn’t have a reserve team until last year,” Bernier said. “Yet they were able to sign 25 players and have them play in their first team now. A reserve team would be ideal, but there are other solutions.”
Playoff push: ‘They will need to regroup’
With the Impact entering the final stretch of the 2019 season, Bernier believes Montreal could make it to the postseason despite the highs and lows.
“It’s not easy in the Eastern Conference,” he said. “There aren’t many games left. They will need to regroup and show the solidarity that they brought at the start of the season. That will allow them to go through this.”
Bernier reiterated that MLS’ bread and butter is offense. If the Impact can pounce on their opponents with their attacking weapons, Bernier thinks the Impact can make a mark.
“They have [Ignacio Piatti’s] return and Lassi Lappalainen,” Bernier said. “If they can stay in shape and maximize on offensive players, it’s an offensive league, you need to create chances. That’s MLS. We don’t invest in defenders, we invest in forwards.”