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Patrice Bernier on the Importance of Cup Soccer in MLS

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Experiences have led the Montreal Impact captain and his team to have a new respect for the importance of winning cup games despite the regular season's allure.

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks ago, Patrice Bernier stood on the turf at Montreal's Olympic Stadium, surrounded by 61,000 people in his home province. It was the CONCACAF Champions League final and for him, perhaps more than anyone else on either side of the field that day, the significance of this moment was not lost, even if the match ultimately was.

"You don't get to live these movements, especially not coming from a soccer country where it's not a habit to have 50-60 thousand people [to watch live soccer]," explained Bernier. "Unfortunately we didn't win or it would have been the greatest moment in all of my career."

The moment will certainly be in the back of Bernier's mind as he and his club take to the field for the second leg of its Voyageurs Cup semifinal tie against Toronto FC.

The Impact have a 1-0 nothing lead for leg 1, and the aforementioned recent events have made them hungry for a third straight Canadian title.

But Bernier believes the Impact's success will not only be in the back of his mind, it will be the focus of the other team's in the competition as well. He thinks it could go a long way towards making the Voyageurs Cup more compelling.

"The fact that we got to the final maybe sets a bit of a tone for other teams to say ‘hey, if we take this seriously and we win it, next year we can go to the Champions League and [we] can get to live [our own moments],'' said Bernier.

Unfortunately, those moments haven't found their way to the Canadian Championship just yet. There were just 12,518 supporters on hand in Montreal for the semi-finals first leg, and, judging by ticket availability, there won't be too many more in Toronto.

However, Bernier thinks the competition is working well the way it is, and hopes it will only grow in the future when they are able to include more clubs, such as USL and NASL sides. He understands, though, why most fans don't consider it a top priority.

"[I think] fans of Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal are of the mindset that the MLS is [the most] important thing, to get to the playoffs to win it all," he says. "So the Canadian cup is not always seen as the most important game for Canadian teams."

This extends past Canada, however, as the United States has found it equally difficult to draw supporters out to the US Open Cup, or have teams focus on the CCL. This comes despite all the history the US domestic cup has in that country.

Bernier hopes that not just in Canada, but in the league as a whole, the Impact's run will help MLS sides focus more on success in cup competitions.

"At the end of the day there has not been any MLS teams going to the Club World Cup," he says of the end goal that the Impact came 45 minutes away from achieving. "I believe there are some quality teams in this league, quality players."

He does acknowledge how difficult it is to do that in this league. The Impact have only played five league games so far as a result of their Champions League campaign, and are finding it difficult to get back to regular routines.

"You are playing in a tournament where if you [lose] you are out, and then you are playing in the league where you're only getting the reward at the end of the year," he says of the club's two required mentalities that are difficult to switch between.

As for his club's mentality going into the second leg against Toronto, and looking to recreate their cup dreams from last year, he says they have been here before and know what they are doing.

"The club has gone through this the last three years and we've won it twice in a row. The objective is to go get a result and to move on to the final."