Bernier returned to the Montreal starting lineup in their 1-1 draw at Toronto on Saturday for the first time in a month and a half, having just returned from a bout of plantar fasciitis last week – it was his nineteenth start and 21st appearance of the season.
Lining up alongside Calum Mallace at the base of the midfield, Bernier was a dominant force in the middle, even if his usually accurate passing was a little off – completing roughly half of his attempts, though in fairness many incomplete ones were of the longer variety, trying to spring attackers behind the Toronto defenses from deep.
Raw numbers rarely tell the whole story, but by way of evidence they can be indicative, as such Bernier racked up a jaw-dropping sixteen recoveries, six interceptions, four clearances, and three tackles – a stunning 27 defensive interventions.
He had one attempt at goal, sending a long-range effort wide in the 75th minute, but his real impact came in his quelling of Toronto attacks and spring of Montreal ones. He intercepted a weak ball in the centre of the pitch, playing up to Dilly Duka that led to a Jack McInerney chance in the first half and it was his lovely, long cross-field ball that found Andres Romero streaking down the left that led to Felipe’s equalizer in 39th minute.
The Brossard, Quebec-native was not done there, hitting a curling free-kick to the back-post for Hassoun Camara in the second half that led to a handball shout and devising a quick restart from a later dead-ball that found Issey Nakajima-Farran leading to a Marco Di Vaio chance as the match wound down.
Bernier’s leadership was also evident, trying, without success, to talk Baldomero Toledo out of an early booking for Camara – the defender would be sent off for his second yellow later – and mixing it up with National Team compatriot Dwayne De Rosario as the two sides debated the merits of Jackson’s yellow card – each shoving the other.
Post-match he commented: “It was a good performance. Against Toronto, it’s always special for a Montrealer. It’d been a month since I played. The last game was [with Canada] against Jamaica, here in Toronto, and we won 3-1. It went well, and I'm glad, all the more so given that I’d only returned to training last week.”
Adding: “Emotions are let loose sometimes, and you try to control the game, you try to help the referee as well, but you can see it goes overboard sometimes, especially in those games. There were a few red cards, but in the end, it didn’t go overboard so much. For me, it was one of the more exciting and emotional games we had against Toronto.”
Henry too returned to the starting lineup for Toronto on Saturday against Montreal for the first time after a six-match hiatus – it was his eighteenth start and twentieth appearance of the season, though more importantly (if rumours are to be believed) it may well have been his final home match for the club.
Paired with Steven Caldwell in the centre of defense, taking up the left-sided role, he was tasked with keeping the tireless running of Jack McInerney under wraps. With Toronto taking the initiative and Montreal looking to spring quick breaks, Henry was required to mop up a lot of half chances, making nine recoveries, five interceptions, three clearances, and two blocked throughout the ninety mintues.
The Brampton, Ontario-native was a little late to spot Felipe’s trailing run on Montreal’s goal, both he and Caldwell dropping back with the runner rather than protecting the vulnerable top of the box, but he made amends with that error with a good recovery-intervention when Felipe chipped McInerney in early in the second half, doing just enough to rush the striker into clipping his finish off the face of the bar.
With TFC in desperate need of the points late and some time with the National Team at full-back, Henry pressed high up the right later in the match, getting involved in the oft-impotent attack. His first pass into the box showed all the finesse one would expect of a centre-back in attack – easily cut out by Patrice Bernier – but his second was rather nice, scooping the ball over the tackle of Felipe before bypassing Bernier to play in Dwayne De Rosario down the right-side of the box; unfortunately De Rosario blazed his effort over the bar.
Perhaps indicative of change in the future, Henry was one of the few Toronto players who ventured to the South End to applaud the fans after another disappointing season. Henry has been the success story of the nascent TFC academy and has a lot of room for further growth in his game.
Osorio started a sixth-consecutive match for Toronto in their draw on Saturday – it was his 24th start and 27th appearance of the season.
Allowed to take up his preferred central-role, playing ahead of Collen Warner with Michael Bradley suspended, Osorio was good, but was unable to make use of the full pitch, opting instead to stay deep, often taking up the Bradley-role of dropping very deep to pick up the initial pass out of the back. The consequence of which was that he did not have a single pass in the final third of the pitch, which is a criminal misuse of his skills with Toronto desperate for goals.
The Toronto, Ontario-native was indeed key in TFC’s ball movement, completing all but eight of his approximately forty passes, but it would have been nice if some had been in more dangerous areas of the pitch.
Despite that reserved nature, he did help spring two notable attacks – laying a skipping ball down the right for Mark Bloom that led to Luke Moore’s fade-away header at the back-post that was cut out by Matteo Ferrari and playing a scoop pass in midfield to Moore that led to the counterattack that drew a fine foot save out of Evan Bush at the back-post on Dominic Oduro – likely TFC’s best scoring chance of the match.
His night would come to a premature end in the 93rd minute when he was dismissed with a very harsh red card from the referee, who had obviously tired managing the game midway through the second half and chose to instead start sending everybody off – it was the first red card of his MLS career and just his third bookings. No doubt Osorio caught Felipe with a foul, but did it warrant a red card? Video evidence is inconclusive, but it is worth pointing out no Montreal players were particularly angered by the challenge, as they were by Jackson’s on Eric Miller some minutes earlier.
Unless it is rescinded, which is unlikely given the Independent Review Panel’s silence on Nick Hagglund’s bizarre red the previous week (there is little reason to stir the pot and overturn cards when the matches are meaningless), Osorio will have played his final match of 2014, ending the season with three goals and five assists after scoring five and garnering a single assist in his rookie campaign, making six further starts, but one less appearance than he did in 2013.
Post-match he discussed a plethora of subjects, sharing his thoughts on the match: “It was a difficult game. Obviously they came out with a lot of energy. You could kind of feel that. They definitely wanted to end our playoff hopes. To be fair they played pretty well. We played pretty good too. I thought we had many chances, especially in the first half. Unfortunately we gave up that goal and we couldn’t get the next one in the 2nd half.”
On the red card: “As Felipe was passing the ball I just kind of reached in with my foot and I kind of got him a little bit. I don’t know if it deserved red card but I did get him. It was a foul.”
On Felipe’s goal-celebration: “I was waiting to get a goal myself because I had something up my sleeve but it’s okay it happens.”
And finally on the fan’s impatience, speaking truth in the face of much pressure: “We understand the fans are impatient now because it’s been a long time since the club started and we’ve never been in the playoffs. We have to look at the reality and the reality is we’re still a club making changes. We went up a step from last year and if we can continue building that, pretty soon we will be a team fighting for a championship.
“We definitely do have the players, maybe we’re missing some pieces but I think more it’s about the team being together longer. The more we get to practice with each other, the more fluidity we’ll get in our team and the better we will be.”
Teibert retained his starting position for Vancouver in the 0-0 draw in San Jose on Saturday night for the eleventh-consecutive match – it was his 21st start and 28th appearance of the season.
Once more alongside Matias Laba at the base of the midfield, Teibert had a solid outing, covering tons of ground and was nearly perfect in his passing, competing all but four of some fifty attempts.
It was a rather quiet match on the whole, but the Niagara Falls, Ontario-native had one crack from long range that strayed wide and hit a spectator, who dropped like a stone and he played numerous balls into the wide areas, hoping to spur attacks, finding Erik Hurtado one on occasion, who could not see out the chance.
He was guilty of over-committing on one occasion, biting hard and blazing past Khari Stephenson’s touch allowing a blistering shot from the top of the box that was well-saved by David Ousted.
Teibert looked forward to Vancouver’s final match – the one which would determine if they will make this year’s playoffs - in his post-match comments: “We said that we had five cup finals to play in, and we’ve won three and tied one. This is the last cup final that we’re going to have to play in before the playoffs, and we’re going to approach it like we have the past four games. I think if we stick to our game plan and everybody focuses on their tasks, individually and collectively, I know we can get a result.”
Nakajima-Farran began his return to Toronto on the bench, coming on for Dilly Duka in the 73rd minute to make his fifth-substitute appearance in Montreal’s last six matches after an impressive outing for Canada against Colombia on Tuesday – it was his twelfth appearance of the season for the Impact, all but four coming as a sub.
Lively and full of confidence, the Calgary, Alberta-native took every opportunity to close down TFC players on the ball, helping to prevent the home side from finding the game-winner they needed. He nearly got a winner himself when Patrice Bernier played a quick free-kick to him, running at Steven Caldwell before playing to Marco Di Vaio down the right. Joe Bendik would deny the striker’s attempt and the rebound trickled beyond the reach of Nakajima-Farran at the back-post with the net gaping – it would have been sweet justice for how his midseason transfer between the clubs was handled.
He spoke post-match about returning to Toronto: “I’ve got close friends on the other team so I always wish them the best but at the same time it’s bittersweet because of how the situation went down. As much as I want to prove myself to them against them for what they did, but this is MLS, but I have mixed feelings because I have close friends on the other side.”
And on how everything has played out for him this season: “Well, they didn’t really play out too well for me. As soon as I settled down in Montreal, I haven’t been playing as much ever since the red card. I’ve been playing here and there but no more than an hour in the past 10 or 15 games I guess. It’s been frustrating and very unexciting time for myself, but, everything has been going great with the national team. I’m very thankful for Benito (Floro) and especially all the guys that surround the national team so it’s been a great season for that.”
Dwayne De Rosario
De Rosario entered Toronto’s draw from the bench in the 57th minute, replacing the goal-scorer Warren Creavalle with TFC in search of an equalizer – it was the eighth-straight appearance for the veteran, all but the first coming from as a substitute; he has made nineteen appearances this season, four of them starts.
Given a free role, De Rosario ranged all over the pitch in an effort to find a way through the Montreal defenses, though he was nominally stationed on the right of the midfield.
Shortly after entering, he nearly picked out the run of Gilberto with a long ball down the left-channel, but his delivery was slightly over-hit, skidding to Evan Bush who cleared away the threat. The Scarborough, Ontario-native had a glorious chance to get the winner himself, after Doneil Henry silky-skills played him in down the right-side of the area, but his right-footer sailed woefully over.
His run into the area even later was overlooked by a Gilberto headed pass, opting instead to try and find Luke Moore to little effect.
De Rosario had several run-ins with his Canadian associates, marking Issey Nakajima-Farran on a free-kick, tangling and bundling him over in the process and exchanging shoves with Patrice Bernier after Jackson’s booking.
The veteran exhibited he still has plenty of fire, responding to getting hacked down by Hassoun Camara with a back-heel, leg-hook, can-opener, earning a yellow card for his troubles – it was his first booking of the season.
Bekker’s run of three-straight starts came to an end on Saturday, returning to the bench from which he made his introduction in the 68th minute, replacing Collen Warner with TFC chases a victory – it was his nineteenth appearance of the season and seventh as a substitute.
Taking up the deep-lying central role, Bekker was good, but wasted his chance to play the hero, sending his last-second free-kick sailing high onto the roof of the net.
The Oakville, Ontario-native did have his moments, making the interception that led to Dominic Oduro’s chance on the counterattack and hitting a lovely corner kick that Gilberto should have done better with, but it was not to be; his frustration when his free-kick floated away was obvious.
Akindele was back on the bench for the start of Dallas’ eventual 0-1 win in Colorado on Saturday – it was his 25th appearance of the season, eighteen of which have been starts.
It was the third match in the last four in which he was used as a substitute, perhaps Oscar Pareja is trying to get the rookie some rest before the playoffs begin, plus Dallas’ other offseason acquisitions – David Texeira and Andres Escobar - have found their form, making inclusion in the starting lineup a more uncertain prospect.
Entering the fray at half-time, replacing Texeira, the Calgary, Alberta-native was full of his usual running, unfortunately it was a pretty uneventful match. Dallas took the lead in the 56th minute from the penalty spot and then Colorado were reduced to ten men in the 79th minute, all but ending the contest.
Despite that awesome ‘Vote for Tesho’ campaign video, his Rookie of the Year bid will have suffered some in that his production has dropped off of late – his last goal came in that hat-trick nine matches ago; since then he has picked up a pair of assists.
The transition from the short college season to the lengthy professional one always weighs heavy on young players, perhaps a further reason for his lack of starts recently.
Tissot entered Montreal’s draw in Toronto in the 82nd minute, replacing Andres Romero with fresh legs as the Impact looked to end TFC’s season – it was his nineteenth appearance of the season; all but six of which have come from the bench.
Taking up the left-side of the Montreal midfield, the Gatineau, Quebec-native was tasked largely with matching the speed threat of Dominic Oduro down that flank, making at least one crucial intervention on the tricky Ghanaian to see out the result.
Ashtone Morgan, Maxime Crepeau, Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé, Sam Adekugbe, and Kofi Opare were unused substitutes on the bench for their respective sides.
Mark Watson and Nick Dasovic were relieved on their managerial duties in San Jose last Wednesday when it was announced that the rumoured return of Dominic Kinnear to his former stomping grounds would be coming to fruition next season. Despite the shockingly public nature of the back-room machinations, Watson ‘took the high road’ in his comments to the San Jose Mercury. Hopefully the duo will land on their feet; who knows, Toronto could be looking for a new management team in the near future.
All quotes and video courtesy of MLSsoccer.com
Each week James takes a look at the contributions of Canadians in the league and the league as a whole.