MONTREAL—If there’s one area where the Montreal Impact have led the way in MLS over the last two seasons it’s in the number of public displays of discontent.
Even when things are going relatively well for the Impact, like they are now, there just always seems to be something that isn’t going well at all—some issue hiding beneath the surface, some player who’s itching to make his despondency known.
Last year, of players who openly criticized the Impact’s handling of different circumstances, there was Jeb Brovsky, Matteo Ferrari, Troy Perkins and Issey Nakajima-Farran. Already this season, we’ve encountered three cases of player discontent in Jack McInerney, Laurent Ciman and Bakary Soumare.
If it was just one player complaining about the club then that would be one thing, but five … six … seven players? Someone must be doing something wrong.
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It’s simply imperative that the Impact learn to manage players better. Just imagine what would happen if a year from now an international star such as Didier Drogba were to come out and speak badly about the club as others have (talk about putting Montreal on the map, that would certainly do the trick).
The recent case of Patrice Bernier is the latest and gravest example of the Impact mishandling situations with players.
Bernier has always been exemplary in his behaviour and has never himself uttered a peep about being unhappy over barely playing this season under coach Frank Klopas. His wife, however, couldn’t help lambasting the club on Facebook this week, calling Klopas’ decisions “disrespectful” and “vicious”.
Overwhelmed and embarrassed by the media storm that ensued, Bernier has since been granted a few days off to reflect on his future.
It’s worth noting, in case anyone needed reminding, that Bernier isn’t just any player at the Impact. He is, first of all, the team’s captain. He is also one of the very best soccer players from Quebec and he certainly didn’t need to come back here when he did in 2012, after a successful 10-year journey in Europe.
Bernier also showed that he was a different calibre. In the Impact’s first season in MLS, he was the team’s best player. In 2013 he was an MLS All-Star.
But now, two years later, Bernier is treated as though he was insignificant. He’s only started in three games for Klopas in MLS this season, playing no more than 340 minutes. Obviously players need to earn their spot in a team, but it’s difficult to comprehend that Bernier, even at 35, hasn’t been able to find the field more with a team that has one of the very worst starting central midfield tandems in MLS.
Klopas never wanted to re-sign Bernier, but due to the player’s popularity was given little choice. And Klopas couldn’t be straight up with Bernier about not having any intention of giving him minutes or else Bernier would never have stayed on.
So in his re-signing press conference, Klopas said Bernier would be given a chance to play, mentioning at one point that he would adopt a “rotation system.” Bernier knew he wasn’t going to be a starter anymore, but he didn’t know he was dead last in the midfield pecking order.
In short, he was misled. And if Bernier was no longer part of the team’s plans then that’s what he should have been told at the end of last season. The Impact could have then offered him a role with the club and everyone would have been happy.
Instead, all Klopas and the Impact have done is humiliate Bernier and tarnish the memory of a fabulous player.
This used to be a club that took pride in its local players. What message is the Impact sending its academy kids when it treats the player that these same kids look up to like old trash?
Impact vice-president Nick De Santis told RDS on Saturday that Bernier’s situation was going to be “resolved soon.” In the meantime, the damage has already been done.
Voila, another dejected player.
Nick Sabetti is a Montreal-based writer. Follow him on Twitter