International soccer star is coming home

Patrice Bernier accepts challenge of building Impact in MLS

Home is where the heart is…and for Patrice Bernier, his heart is coming home.

After playing nearly a decade across the pond in Norway, Germany and Denmark, the Brossard native will don the blue and white jersey of the Montreal Impact for a second time in his career.

“I’m a point in my career where I feel good and strong,” said the 32-year-old midfielder. “With the Impact playing in the highest league in North America, I felt the time was right to come home and help build the MLS edition of the Impact.”

Bernier, growing up on Montreal’s south shore, played most of his youth with AS Brossard, honing his skills right here in Quebec, making his professional debut with the Montreal Impact in 2000.

“All my football education happened right here in Montreal, not somewhere else,” he said with pride. “I played on the south shore until I turned 18 and went to University (Syracuse) in the U.S. A year and a half later, I returned to Montreal and played three seasons with the Impact [2000-2002].”

Now, the 32-year-old midfielder is excited about coming home, but he knows that his talking will have to be done on the field.

“In my head it was nice to be able to consider coming back to Montreal. You always dream of coming home, but you can’t just come back because you’re from here, everything has to fall into place: the team philosophy, its direction, the way the coaching staff sees you fitting into their plans and the direction of your career. It’s an added bonus to play here, I started here, but this is on top of being good on the pitch. I didn’t want to come back just because I’m a local boy; I want to be an important part of this team.”

Bernier has faced an assortment of challenges over his career, including lining up across from the likes of soccer giants AS Roma in Italy, and Galatasaray from Turkey. However, joining and expansion team in MLS presents a whole new set of tribulations for the Canadian National Team fixture.

"Europe is a much more tactical, strategic kind of game," he said. "North America is more north-south. People want to be entertained, have goal chances, so the style of play is more open going forward, which I like in some ways. The European style is more balanced, finding the right time to attack. I can see MLS has improved. There are a lot more European players coming over. But it's going to be a different league and a different challenge. There will be adjustments for sure.”

Part of his acclimatization will include the responsibilities, like media attention and public appearances, that come with being a local ‘hero’ playing for his hometown team, but that’s all part of what brought him home in the first place.

“I feel a sense of responsibility to represent Quebec soccer and the community; these responsibilities lie on my shoulders. But for me, preparing for the game on the field and playing 110% is my first priority.”

It will all come full circle on March 17 for Bernier when the Impact plays its historical home opener on March 17 at the Big O.

“It will be great to put on the Impact jersey again,” he said. “Then to get the chance to play in the Olympic Stadium in front of so many supporters, friends and family will be incredible. I had a chance to play at Stade Saputo with the national team, but I never played in the Olympic Stadium. I’ve only been to baseball games there as a kid.”

What better Christmas present for Quebec soccer fans than having one of their own return home…

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