KANSAS CITY, MO. (AP) - The Montreal Impact selected Duke forward Andrew Wenger with the first overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft on Thursday, choosing the most complete player available as the expansion franchise pieces together its first roster.
Wenger won the Hermann Trophy as the top NCAA player. He was the ACC defensive player of the year last season and offensive player of the year this past season, finishing with 17 goals and eight assists in 22 games.
“It’s an honor, but it’s exciting,” said Wenger, who plans to join the new MLS club in a couple weeks, once his responsibilities with the U.S. men’s national under-23 team are through.
Akron forward Darren Mattocks was selected second by the Vancouver Whitecaps. UCLA midfielder Kelyn Rowe went third to New England, followed by UC Santa Barbara’s Luis Silva to Toronto FC and Maryland forward Casey Townsend to Chivas USA.
The Impact were expected to choose between Wenger and Mattocks, who many believe has greater long-term potential. Club officials wavered between the two until a couple days ago, ultimately going with Wenger’s versatility over Mattocks‘ scoring punch.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Wenger said. “I’ve never lived in a big city. I’ve been watching a lot of the Travel Channel lately, so at least I know of some nice places to eat.”
Montreal coach Jesse Marsch, a longtime MLS star, said he doesn’t know where Wenger will fit on the field. He’s shown ability at forward and midfield and as a lockdown defender.
“I think he was the best soccer player available,” Marsch said. “We followed him very closely, and we just felt he had the best future, short term and long term, in the draft.”
Mattocks is a speedy Jamaican who wound up at powerhouse Akron because he wanted to acclimate himself to playing in colder weather. He’ll certainly get that opportunity in Vancouver.
“I knew from the get-go that it would be between me and Wenger. They picked Wenger first and that’s OK with me,” said Mattocks, a Hermann Trophy semifinalist and Mid-American Conference player of the year, who scored 39 goals in 47 games during his two years with the Zips.
Vancouver President Bob Lenarduzzi said his decision was easy once Montreal made its pick.
“It’s been the consensus that the top two were Wenger and Mattocks,” Lenarduzzi said. “We just needed Montreal to make up their minds. All along you sort of jokingly ask what they’re going to do, but they never were going to tell me anything.”
Townsend scored 43 goals for Maryland, the third most in school history.
“They’re real excited to get me and I’m real excited to get there,” he said. “I had a gut feeling that was where I’d go.”
Sam Garza became the second player from UC Santa Barbara to be drafted when he went sixth to San Jose. Garza began his career at Denver before scoring 17 goals in two seasons for the Gauchos, helping them to a 15-7-1 record and the third round of the NCAA tournament this season.