When the World Cup winning striker Thierry Henry praises a fellow player, especially one on the opposing team, you should take notice.
That’s exactly what happened after Saturday’s convincing 3-1 victory over the New York Red Bulls as he addressed the media following the game, but, it may not be the player you might be thinking of.
Despite strong performances from former Italian international players Alessandro Nesta, who was dominant in his Impact debut, and Designated Player Marco Di Vaio, who scored his first goal in MLS, Henry singled out Montreal’s local boy.
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“I think Montreal’s new acquisitions are good for the league and especially for the team,” said Henry. “The fans want to see players like Nesta, Di Vaio, Rivas and Ferrari. But, saying that, the key of this team is Patrice Bernier by a distance. You [the media] should give more credit to Bernier; he was the man of this team for a very long time, even when we played them before.”
“It’s extremely flattering to be acknowledged by a guy like Henry,” said Bernier. “He’s a former World Cup winner and is considered one of the best players of all-time. He’s played versus some of the top players in the world and has played at the highest levels, so it’s definitely flattering.”
A closer look at Bernier’s statistics this season seems to support Henry’s claims.
The Quebec native leads the team in goals with six as a midfielder, a rare feat in professional soccer, and he has added five assists in his first season in MLS. The Canadian international is having the best offensive season of his career… in just 17 appearances so far this year.
Prior to this season, the Brossard resident scored 16 goals in 284 appearances.
He averaged a goal approximately every 18 games over his career, which includes 10 seasons in Denmark, Germany and Norway. In MLS, his numbers work out to a goal scored approximately every three appearances.
Furthermore, the Impact has six of its eight wins in games Bernier registers at least an assist; a telling statistic of Bernier’s importance to his team’s success.
Despite going through a tough spell earlier in the year, which saw Bernier make just two appearances in eight games (one as a starter), the Impact associate captain has definitely established himself as a key cog in the midfield, earning all of his points in his last 12 games; coinciding with a change in formation.
“I think that playing the 4-2-3-1 system suits my style better as I get to play more of a freer role,” said Bernier, “Just like I did in Europe. With two defensive midfielders, I can come forward a little more, and help start the play by moving the ball forward; making that first pass ahead to our attacking players. It really gives me more freedom offensively.”
His play has caught the eye of his coaches, teammates and now former French international and Euro Cup winner Thierry Henry. With that stamp of approval, the rest of the league should start taking notice as well.