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Montreal’s first choice in MLS draft is versatile

Montreal makes Hermann Award winner Wenger first selection in MLS SuperDraft.

01/12/2012 5:00 AM

05/16/2014 6:00 PM

Andrew Wenger, the first overall pick in the 2012 Major League Soccer SuperDraft, already has created a problem for his new team, the expansion Montreal Impact.

Where to play him?

Wenger was the Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year for Duke in 2010, scoring zero goals and picking up two assists.

Moved to forward in 2011, Wenger scored 17 goals with eight assists and was selected ACC Offensive Player of the Year and also received the Hermann Award, college soccer’s version of the Heisman Trophy.

Yet asked what he considers his natural position, Wenger went in a different direction.

“Possibly in midfield. I’m a pretty athletic player,” Wenger said Thursday after MLS commissioner Don Garber introduced him in French as Montreal’s choice in the draft, which was held at the Grand Ballroom of the Kansas City Convention Center. “I like to be around the ball, so whatever gets me close to the ball, that will work.

“I’ve heard the buzzword is versatility. Whatever (Montreal) wants me to do, I’ll do. We’ll figure that out soon enough. MLS is a lot different game than college, but we’ll see.”

Wenger, 6-0, 185, is currently playing centerback for the U.S. Olympic team that is training for the 2012 Games, and Montreal coach Jesse Marsch is considering all possibilities for Wenger, who just completed his junior year but is scheduled to graduate from Duke in May.

“It made the equation complex because we looked at him carefully at so many different positions,” said Marsch, who chose Wenger over Akron forward Darren Mattocks, who went second overall to Vancouver. “We followed him closely,” Marsch said of Wenger, “and he’s been a good player at many different levels for many years. In the end, short term, long term, he’s the best soccer player available.

“He’s a very good centerback, if that’s what we feel is the best fit. He has potential to be a great midfielder, a great defender or a great forward. As a new franchise, to have access to a player and a person like Andrew Wenger, we consider ourselves fortunate. We know he will handle being the No. 1 pick very well because he’s a mature young man.”

Maryland forward Casey Townsend faced Wenger annually, and said Montreal got the best of both sides of the ball.

“You can put him anywhere,” said Townsend, who was taken fifth in the draft by Chivas USA. “He’s going to be successful. He does everything well. He’s an athletic guy. He’s fast, he can score goals, he’s good in the air. … what more can you ask for?”

Wenger, who turned 21 on Christmas Day, is looking forward to playing for Montreal, where he will be reunited with Zarek Valentin, a youth soccer teammate in Lititz, Pa.., who was taken by the Impact from Chivas USA in the expansion draft.

“Montreal is an expansion team, so they need a lot of things,” Wenger said. “There’s a lot of potential in Montreal, and I’m happy to be part of it. I’ve never lived in a big city before. I lived in rural Pennsylvania, and Durham is not the biggest city in the world.

“I’ve been watching the Travel Channel a bunch recently, and I’ve found some nice places to eat, so I’m excited about that.”

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