Opportunity knocks for Larrea

MONTREAL – The timing for latest addition Gorka Larrea to play his first minutes with the Impact was impeccable.

Foreshadowing the inevitable confirmation from Montreal, Cruz Azul-bound DP midfielder Hernan Bernardello was unsurprisingly talked about in the past last Friday. With Bernardello in attendance at Stade Saputo, Larrea played 90 minutes in a 1-0 win against Harrisburg City Islanders, third-to-last in USL Pro, in MLS Reserve League action.

Larrea, signed on June 11 after a one-month trial, started the game next to team captain Patrice Bernier. Bernardello leaves a door open for Larrea as he departs, and Larrea intends to take full advantage of the opportunity. With some regret.

“It’s sad, because Hernan was bringing a lot to the team not only on the field but in the locker room as well,” Larrea told MLSsoccer.com in Spanish after the game. “He’s a great guy who helped me a lot when I came in. It’s a good opportunity, but it saddens me, because this team’s losing a very important player. We have to fill that void he leaves all together.”

Larrea, who trialed with the New England Revolution last winter, felt well on the field despite not having played since March 9, 2013, when he came on for a 13-minute shift for Numancia in the Spanish second division. The Impact’s two-sessions-a-day schedule during the World Cup break will have helped.

Lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation to start, Montreal used Bernier and Larrea in front of the defense, taking turns going forward. Larrea displayed a fine variety of movement as the Islanders tried to force Montreal wide – a Maxim Tissot overlap and cross would yield the only goal, a Felipe one-timer in the 19th minute.

Montreal moved to 4-4-2 after halftime, and assistant coach Nick Kounenakis was pleased with Larrea’s performance in both systems.

“He gives us depth,” Kounenakis told MLSsoccer.com after the game. “He’s a good player that can help us in organizing the game. Now that Hernan has left, he’ll give some aspects that we’re looking to in the midfield.”