Wenger reflects on season with Montreal Impact

By on November 13, 2013


BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor

, Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Montreal Impactâ?©Montreal Impact forward Andrew Wenger, a 2009 Warwick High School grad, celebrates following a goal in the Canadian Championship this past May.

A year ago, Andrew Wenger got his first taste of Major League Soccer action.

This season, the 2009 Warwick High School grad made his playoff debut with the Montreal Impact, the team that drafted him number one overall in 2012.

Unfortunately, Wenger and his teammates will have to wait a little bit longer to celebrate a post-season win.

On Halloween Night, the Eastern Conference’s fifth-seeded Impact were hoping to treat themselves to a win over the No. 4-seed Houston Dynamo in a knockout game of the MLS playoffs.

It was the host Dynamo who prevailed, however, earning a 3-0 shutout at BBVA Compass Stadium to end the Impact’s season.

"We had some success this year, but ultimately the season ended on a loss," Wenger said. "There were some things to take away from that and move forward and try to do differently next year."

That game was the second of back-to-back games that Wenger started at forward for Montreal at the end of the year, including a 1-0 loss to Toronto FC.

During the MLS regular season, the 22-year-old former Duke University star played in 24 games, with eight starts, and notched one goal, three assists and eight shots on goal in 853 minutes. Although Wenger missed two or three games with a broken toe, he described it as a "relatively healthy" campaign for him.

"I had a good little run of form back in June," he said, "and then between injury and just a bad run of form, I didn’t play as much during the summer, then kinda pulled it together here at the end."

Back in May in a 5-3 win over the Philadelphia Union, Wenger scored a goal and added an assist in Marco Di Vaio’s hat trick. Di Vaio finished with a team-best 20 goals and was named the Impact’s Player of the Year.

Wenger also had a goal in a 6-0 drubbing of Toronto FC in mid-May. Later that month, thanks to a comeback 2-2 draw at Vancouver’s BC Place, Montreal captured the Amway Canadian Championship (ACC) and punched its ticket to the CONCACAF Champions League.

"I made some progress on the field. I mean, sometimes to the average fan, it might be hard to tell where I improved from year one compared to year two," Wenger said. "But it’s still a little frustrating – I lacked the finished product at times to put the stat up there. So I think that’s something going forward that I just pay a little more attention to."

Asked if he was happy with the amount of playing time he received this year, Wenger said, "Yeah, I think I was fortunate at times to get a good amount of playing time and earn the time that I did. A couple better performances by me and it would have been more. But it is what it is."

The Impact, a second-year expansion team, got solid performances from many of their newcomers this year – Italy’s Andrea Pisanu and Daniele Paponi, Argentina’s Andres Romero and Hernan Bernardello, and Spain’s Adrian Lopez – and jumped to a fast start out of the gates, going 4-1-1 in their first six games.

They had a nine-game home unbeaten streak – and a four-game winning streak at Stade Saputo – before suffering a 4-3 loss to the Colorado Rapids in late June. Still, the Impact was atop the Eastern Conference standings at the time, three points ahead of the Union.

"They brought in a couple other players (after the 2012 season) that were assets to our team and more importantly than any one player, though, I think it’s the fact that you had probably 22 of 30 guys that were together for a second year," Wenger said, "and kinda understood what the team was about and what to expect and what guys wanted from each other and I think that went a long way."

Unfortunately, though, the Impact slipped in the standings while ending the regular season with a 1-6-1 record in its final eight games, giving them a 14-13-7 mark.

"I think we actually expected ourselves to do a little better than what we did," Wenger said. "We had a great start, won the Canadian championship and petered out a bit toward the end – just couldn’t find our form … It was just a tough run of results and we just didn’t perform properly."

The Impact, though, is hoping that the groundwork has been placed for another run at the playoffs in 2014.

"We’ve got a good group of guys and it will ultimately just depend on the ups and downs of the year," Wenger said. "It’s a long season and if we can keep our nerves at certain times, it will be a good year."

Before pre-season camp gets underway next spring, there could be changes in the make-up of the roster. Time will tell how everything shakes out in that regard.

"The team hasn’t really made decisions on who is going to return next year and who’s not," Wenger said. "The team that ended the year could be completely different next year."

Does Wenger expect to be part of the Montreal Impact in 2014?

"It’s never definitive," he said, "but we won’t know until camp starts, I guess. But I would think so."

"I made some progress on the field. I mean, sometimes to the average fan, it might be hard to tell where I improved from year one compared to year two."

~Andrew Wenger

More WENGER, page B-6

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