Will Fernando Monge fit in the team's lineup?
MONTREAL – There is no University of California campus in Montreal, but, weather aside, Fernando Monge almost feels like it’s the case.
Having already had to move from his hometown of Seattle, Washington to the UCLA campus in 2008, Monge, who tried his hands with Economics before eventually majoring in Political Science, relocated again for soccer purposes last week after being selected 18th overall at the 2013 MLS SuperDraft by Montreal. Luckily, he has found a bit of his university’s spirit in the Impact.
“Once I found out why Montreal selected me, once I got here and learned who the coach is and what the philosophy is, I really felt like it was an extension of what I’ve been learning at UCLA, but at a higher level,” Monge told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “It's about keeping the ball moving, helping each other out.”
Impact sporting director Nick De Santis made no secret of his search for a specific profile of player, and UCLA head coach Jorge Salcedo’s work with Monge during his crucial development years played a great part in his selection.
The midfielder thrived in Salcedo’s technique-over-physique style. It helped an omnipresent Monge and his teammates reach the 2011 national semifinals, where they suffered a painful penalty kicks loss to eventual champions University of North Carolina.
Monge’s responsibilities grew some more in 2012, as he started all 19 Pacific-12 Conference games as well as UCLA’s upset loss to San Diego in the second round of the NCAA Championship. Again, Monge made it a point of keeping the ball on the ground and passing it at a swift tempo.
“Montreal told me that they had seen me play all year long, and they saw how I played for UCLA,” Monge said. “They see that I can fit in here.”
What they could see, in fact, is a player who was trained into such an interest in the ball that he was barely able to let it go as his future was being decided.
“I was actually playing during the draft,” Monge said with a chuckle. “I just wanted to go out and kick the ball around. I couldn’t handle this! I wanted to go kick the ball around and do what I love: have fun with soccer.”