Wenger scored the game-winning goal against TFC, his first career goal
2012 sure seems like a long time ago.
It was a little more than eight years ago, on March 10, 2012, that the Montreal Impact officially made its debut in the big leagues. Taking on Vancouver on Canada’s West Coast, head coach Jesse Marsch’s men fell 2-0 to the Whitecaps. The Impact’s first ever pick at the MLS SuperDraft, Andrew Wenger, selected first overall, played his first 18 minutes in that game, subbed on for Justin Braun.
Wenger would play a handful of minutes in the next few games, eagerly taking his opportunity whenever it presented itself. Finally, on April 7 against Toronto FC, he would be subbed on for the final 24 minutes of play.
At this point, the Impact has a slim 1-0 lead, and Toronto FC was inching closer to an equalizer. With no wins in its first six MLS games, the Impact knew how much a win against its natural rival, at home, to mark the club’s first victory in MLS, would mean to the supporters.
That was the setting for Andrew Wenger’s entrance. That’s where he made his impact, an impact that will stay in the club’s books forever.
As the Impact gets set to broadcast that first MLS win, live tonight at 7:30pm, we caught up with Andrew Wenger years later, who recalls this special moment from his perspective.
GM: That first MLS goal against Toronto. Talk to me a little bit about it. What do you remember from that time in your life?
AW: It was a bit of a weird time. I was a first-year pro in a new city, with new teammates in a new organization. It was all very new to all of us. At the time, I was just very happy to get in the game. There were some good players on that team. Obviously, the league has evolved a lot since that time, but we had some really good players in respect to the league’s caliber. I was just happy to get in, and that the coach at the time, Jesse Marsch, trusted me.
GM: What do you remember from the moment you scored?
AW: We were really bunkered in when I came on, so my goal was to get up there, hold the ball and try to kill the game. If you watch the clip, we make two blocks, and then Justin Mapp launches the ball forward… and I just ran after it.
Luckily the defender made a bad decision. He could’ve played it out once or twice, but he tried to be cute with it. I end up taking a risk and cutting inside, and the ball just sat there nicely for me, so I took a shot and it worked out.
It was a fun moment, because everyone came over and celebrated. It was a great first win, and honestly, it’s always fun to play in the Big O. It’s a different environment in there. The field is frustrating, but it gets so loud, it’s drafty, it’s old and weird. Everyone who comes there for the first time is thrown off, so you really feel the home field advantage. Overall, it was a special moment.
GM: Do you remember how you celebrated that goal?
AW: Zarek (Valentin) and I were living together at the time and we had just gotten into Hunger Games. For weeks, we had been discussing what we should do as a celebration if one of us was to score. There’s this part in the series where the main character must pay tribute, so we did that as a celebration. It was super dumb, but so fun. It was a great experience, and a great time, and a little surreal to me.
If I knew that my career would go by so quickly, I feel like I would’ve enjoyed that moment more. It was a special moment.
GM: Did you sense how much that meant for the fans in the stands watching, considering this city’s sports history against Toronto?
AW: I didn’t realize how big it was to get our first MLS win against TFC, at home. I didn’t understand that, and some of my teammates didn’t either. Guys like Eddie Sebrango, Evan Bush, and a couple of other guys that had been on the team in the past did, but we didn’t understand the rivalry other than the fact that we knew it was a big deal. But now I know how special it was to get our first win against them.
GM: What kind of Impact did Montreal and the club have on you?
AW: They were always very supportive of me. They demanded a lot, and I grew a lot while I was there, and became a better person for it. I have nothing but gratitude for the fans and the organization. Everyone was almost great with me. I love Montreal.