MONTREAL – New Impact Designated Player Hernan Bernardello had company for his introductory press conference: Spanish central defender Adrian Lopez Rodriguez joined Bernardello and Impact sporting director Nick De Santis on stage at Stade Saputo on Friday morning, an hour after his signing from Wigan Athletic was announced.
Bernardello and Lopez are making their way to MLS at the age of 26 – incidentally, Lopez will wear that exact number, while Bernardello will don No. 23 –, which indicates that their best years have yet to come. However, both are adamant that they don’t view the Montreal Impact as a springboard back to Europe.
“I come to MLS to stay in MLS,” said Lopez, who is also known as ‘Piscu’. “I’m not thinking about going to back to Europe. The MLS project is going to be amazing. From my point of view, in a few years, MLS will be in the top leagues. That’s why I'm looking forward to staying here and to belong to a league that’s going to be one of the best in the world.”
Bernardello, whom former Almeria teammate and current Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri encouraged to come to MLS, agreed.
“The league is growing well,” Bernardello said. “More and more quality players are developing and coming here. I’m really happy to be here. It’s an important challenge.”
De Santis was beaming as he mentioned that his new recruits’ personalities would ensure a seamless adaptation to the squad. He again described Bernardello as a passionate, hungry player and introduced newest signing Lopez as an intelligent center back who anticipates the game well and whose quality ball work will help the team build from the back.
The signings did require Montreal to free up 2 of their 11 international roster spots, though. Colombian defender Nelson Rivas thus joined young Argentinean midfielder Maximiliano Rodriguez on the injury list.
Rivas, 30, was Montreal’s first MLS signing but hasn’t played since September 15, 2012. He underwent surgery to fix a microfracture in his left knee two weeks later, but he still feels pain to this day despite the lack of apparent damage.
“We want him to recuperate well, but we have to find the problem, for there are complications,” De Santis said. “That’s what’s tough at the moment. He’s 30, so there’s still has a lot of soccer left in him. What’s important is that we find a solution to his problem and that he heals. But it was important for us, with the games piling up, to find another player who can keep stabilizing our defense.”
Olivier Tremblay covers the Montreal Impact for MLSsoccer.com.