No. 1 draft pick Wenger trains for first time with Impact
MONTREAL – Fans are still unsure as to how their Impact will look on the field during their inaugural season in MLS, but they’ve made one thing clear: They want to see Andrew Wenger.
Around 100 fans made the journey to Centre Sportif Marie-Victorin, in the northern part of the Montreal island, to see the Impact’s No. 1 SuperDraft pick train for the first time with his new teammates on Saturday.
It was a quick visit by the former Duke defender-cum-forward, who left for the airport immediately after training, but Wenger sounded most pleased about the session, even though he was joining a group that had been together for a while.
“It’s a little awkward, but it’s part of my job,” Wenger told reporters. “This is a fantastic group, and I’m very excited to finally be here and compete.”
Where exactly Wenger will be competing, however, is anybody’s guess. The 21-year-old played at right midfield and at center back on Saturday, but is hopeful a position where he can play on a regular basis will be determined over the next few weeks.
“We’re going to visit different ideas and see how it all plays out with Andrew,” head coach Jesse Marsch told reporters. “It’s important that we know where the project starts with him so he can progress and become a real professional. But we know he’s going to be a good player, so it’s just good to have him here.”
For now though, Wenger will concentrate on his studies at Duke University. He nevertheless intends to do so with his new club in mind.
“I’ll be in school until May,” he said, “but my classes are set up so I study the first half of the week and then fly wherever the team is when the staff wants me to.”
Zarek Valentin, who treated the fans and the media with waves and winks while running laps around the field, was delighted his childhood friend could join him in Montreal on Friday.
“Andrew and I walked around Ste. Catherine Street yesterday, did some shopping and grabbed dinner,” Valentin said, before adding with a grin, “He even got a haircut, trying to look good for everyone.”
Camara injury adds to defensive woes
The training session did not go as well for defender Hassoun Camara. The Frenchman twisted his right ankle following a hard contact with forward Miguel Montaño and had to be helped off the field.
This injury, as well as reports of a minimum two-month absence for Colombian center back Nelson Rivas, makes the situation of defender Bobby Burling all the more problematic. The former San Jose Earthquakes man has not taken part in a Montreal Impact training session yet, and Marsch is still unsure whether Burling will join the team anytime soon.
“He was out of contract when we drafted him,” the Impact coach said. “I know him pretty well, I know he’d like to be here, but it’s just been very complicated. We’re in a situation where we’ve had many players doing well at that position, but now we’ve got a couple of injuries, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Camara might not make it to preseason camp in Southern California, where the Impact are set to face the Houston Dynamo, Portland Timbers and LA Galaxy in scrimmages at the Home Depot Center grounds.
A fourth game against PDL side Ventura County Fusion has also been scheduled, though Marsch stated that “things might change.” Wenger, on the other hand, will be joining the team on the West Coast next Tuesday, Feb. 7.