After the Montreal Impact conceded 12 goals in the last five games, including a 4-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls that dropped it out of first place, the club announced a defensive reinforcement on Tuesday in Hernán Bernardello.
The 26-year-old Argentine defensive midfielder, who made over 100 appearances in both the Primera División and Spain’s La Liga, signed a one-year deal with a club option for two further seasons. Pending receipt of his international transfer certificate, Bernardello should be available on Saturday against Sporting Kansas City.
On a conference call with reporters, Impact sporting director Nick De Santis didn’t seem panicked about the defensive situation, but he did seem to place some blame on Montreal’s defense rather than its attack for its recent poor form.
“We’ve always created enough chances to say that we could have probably scored one or two goals or even three goals. We have enough offensive qualities to make plays,” he said. “On the defensive end … it’s now mid-season, and it’s getting hotter, and we have to be aware of that. I strongly believe that another center midfielder at Hernán’s level and his age would bring a lot to the team. It’s going to let the team breathe a lot.”
De Santis said Bernardello would provide the Impact with flexibility to play with either one holding midfielder, in its preferred 4-1-4-1 formation, or two. He highlighted Bernardello’s ability to shield the back four and allow other players, such as his presumed partner at the position, Patrice Bernier, to get forward more often.
He also expects Bernardello to fit in well with the team, even though he has a somewhat colorful past. When he left Spanish team Almería to return to Argentina to Colón de Santa Fe, the Andalusians sued him for breach of contract.
The club claimed that he signed a contract extension, and because he failed to turn up for preseason training, he owed the club a €30 million termination fee. Almería believed it had him under contract until 2015, not only until 2012.
In the end, he played the 2012-13 season with Colón, and De Santis pleaded ignorance to the charges leveled against his new player:
I don’t even know what you’re talking about, but if there were problems before, I have no idea of them. I know that the player is with us right now, and we’re extremely happy to have him. … Trust me, we did a lot of homework on the player, on his personality, on his attitude, will he fit in within the group. … He’s a good kid. He’s committed. He’s responsible. He has a big motivation to play in MLS and to play for Montreal, and I think he’s going to fit in very well with the group going forward.
The circumstances under which Bernardello signed with the Impact are also unusual, as his contract ran out after his only season at Colón. As a result, there was no transfer fee, and De Santis said the player “basically belongs to an investor’s group.”
No matter the strange context, if Bernardello can shore up a defense that has given up nearly half of its season’s goals in the last handful of matches, the deal will be considered worthwhile.