Thrilling moment Wenger’s first professional goal lifts Montreal, 2-1
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
Five players are tied for the Montreal Impact’s goal-scoring lead in Major League Soccer, all with one goal apiece.
Count Lititz’s Andrew Wenger among them.
The 2009 Warwick High School graduate not only scored his first professional goal last Saturday, but he got what proved to be the game-winner in the expansion Impact’s first-ever win in MLS, a 2-1 victory over Toronto at Olympic Stadium in Montreal.
"It was pretty exciting," Wenger said in a phone interview early this week. "It was a fun moment."
With Montreal protecting a 1-0 lead on a goal by Sinisa Ubiparipovic in the 18th minute, Toronto was pressuring for the equalizer when Impact midfielder Justin Mapp picked up the ball. Mapp played the ball to Wenger, who beat Toronto defender Ty Harden before scoring past keeper Milos Kocic in the 81st minute to give Montreal a 2-0 lead.
"(Mapp) just saw that there was enough space to hook the ball in there," said Wenger, the first overall selection of the 2012 MLS SuperDraft. "Earlier, Toronto had a man sent off (Logan Emory received a red card), so they were only playing three at the back and Justin hooked the ball into space and I ran onto it. Me and the center back, Ty Harden, kind of tussled over it (and) he cut it back right into my path and I just tried to get my shot on goal."
Just as professional hockey players save the first puck they score as a keepsake, Wenger now has the soccer ball which he put in the back of the net for his first goal.
"Everyone on the team signed it and now it’s in my apartment in Montreal," Wenger said.
In Montreal’s first five games, Wenger has recorded three shots, but his goal against Toronto marked his first quality scoring chance and he didn’t waste it.
"I think that was one of my first true looks at goal that I was able to score," Wenger said. "I’ve been around the goal at certain times, but never had an opportunity looking back saying that I should have scored."
Seven minutes later after Wenger connected, Toronto got one back on a goal by Danny Koevermans, but they would get no closer and Montreal held on for the one-goal victory. Montreal held a 7-5 edge in shots on goal in the game.
Wenger showed his offensive skills at Duke University last season, leading the ACC with 17 goals and 42 points. But getting his first professional goal is a thrill that he will surely remember for a very long time.
Asked how it compares to other goals that he has scored, Wenger said, "It’s pretty high up there. That’s a pretty exciting one. Not many people have scored a professional goal before and to finally score one … it’s always hardest to get your first, I think. I don’t know, it’s pretty exciting."
Although Wenger is still in the early stages of his professional career, he is already getting a taste of the rivalry that exists between Montreal and Toronto. So having his first professional goal stand up as the game-winner was icing on the cake.
"It’s one of the bigger Canadian rivals," Wenger said. "There’s a lot of hatred between the city of Toronto and Montreal. A lot of Canadians say that Toronto thinks it’s the center of the universe and Montreal being part of French-Canada definitely spurs on the rivalry."
Following Montreal’s victory over Toronto, Wenger returned to Duke University, where he is completing his third year on the Charlotte, N.C. to get within four credits of his degree. He rejoined his Impact teammates on Tuesday and will be available to play in Montreal’s game in Dallas, Texas this Saturday, April 14.
From there, Wenger will head back to Duke on Sunday for about 14 days to finish up his college classes. During that time, he will miss the Impact’s games against D.C. United (April 18) and Portland (April 28). But he expects to fly back to Canada prior to the Impact’s May 2 game against Toronto and then spend the rest of the year in Montreal, where he is sharing an apartment with his friend/teammate Zarek Valentin.
"It will be nice to finally rest and take a breath," Wenger said. More WENGER, page B-6