Nick Sabetti: Bernardello signing makes sense for Impact

With the Impact's recent defensive troubles and aging midfield core, the Hernan Bernardello capture was just what the team needed.
With the Montreal Impact enduring a five-game winless streak, club sporting director Nick De Santis assured the media last week that the club would be looking to add a player or two in the current summer transfer window.

The first reinforcement came on Tuesday, in the form of 26-year-old Argentinian midfielder, Hernan Bernardello, who will become the Impact’s second Designated Player in club history after Marco Di Vaio.

Bernardello was initially signaled out by De Santis on a scouting trip in Argentina last March. The Impact were notified last week by an agent that Bernardello had finally become available and the club managed to secure his signature, despite several other interested parties in Mexico and Argentina.

As a defensive midfielder, Bernardello isn’t by any means a glamor signing, but instead one that the Impact expect will provide a significant lift, especially at the defensive end, where the Impact have given up numerous goals of late. 

“He’s more of a defensive-minded player than an attacking one. He’s a player that covers a lot of ground and that plays with a lot of passion and emotion,” De Santis said in a telephone conference on Tuesday.
“He recovers a lot of balls and helps the back line, but he also has great feet and is very good technically.” 

Bernardello comes with loads of experience, having played more than 100 games in both the Argentinian and Spanish top flights, but he’s also still relatively young, which is important considering the Impact’s aging legs in midfield.

“We’re starting to look at the team and at the games that are coming up with the Champions League and we're starting to think about the future as well,” De Santis said. “In midfield we have players with a lot of quality but that are also a little older, like Patrice (Bernier) and Davy Arnaud, and so we had the opportunity to bring in a player that can help these guys out.”

The signing should also give coach Marco Schällibaum more flexibility in the midfield. The Impact have suffered at times from being overly predictable, but this problem will likely be rectified – at least in part - by the fact that Bernier will no longer need to be the focal point of the Impact’s passing play in midfield now that he's not alone in being adept at spraying effective passes in transition.   

Others like Arnaud and Felipe should benefit as well.

“He’s going to give them (the midfielders) more freedom to get forward, because he’s someone that can play with either one guy or two in the center of midfield and he brings a lot of energy, volume and great intelligence and understanding of the game,” De Santis explained. “As you know, in soccer today it’s really important to have deep midfield players that bring a lot of energy but that also have quality.”

With Bernardello on board, Bernier will be able to take up his preferred role a little further up the field in midfield instead of having to sit deep in front of the back line like he has done for the majority of the season until now – and that will surely give added punch to the Impact’s attacking moves.

Bernardello’s arrival might not be the last signing of the summer transfer window for the Impact despite taking up a significant chunk of the team's cap space. De Santis said he’s still keeping an eye out for players, especially a center back since it doesn’t seem likely that Nelson Rivas will be returning to action any time soon.

“We did speak about the defensive position because of Nelson’s (Rivas) situation which became a little more complicated so we have our eyes open; there are possibilities in those positions as well, but there’s nothing confirmed,” De Santis said. “Have we stopped looking? No. Are we guaranteeing that were going to sign another player? No as well, but we're still looking at maybe another player that can help stabilize the defense.”

Of course, that might not be entirely necessary if Bernardello can live up to his reputation.