It was the moment Chris Wingert had waited three months for, and after playing a combined 66 minutes in the first three months of his Major League Soccer career, the former St. Johns standout cracked the starting lineup for the first time Saturday against the Chicago Fire.
The Babylon, L.I. native was stellar for the Crew, playing a solid 87 minutes in a 2-0 win over the Fire at Columbus Crew Stadium.
I didnt know until an hour before game time that I was starting, so I was just preparing like I was going to start since I knew there was the chance, Wingert said. I was just concentrating on what I needed to do and not get caught up in all the hoopla that goes with making your first start.
Wingert was impressive defensively on DaMarcus Beasley and nearly scored his first MLS goal in the 38th minute when his cross from the right of the 18-yard box rang off the crossbar.
Jeff Cunningham was named Man of the Match for his 44th-minute goal, but the Columbus players awarded Wingert, who cramped up late and was replaced by Jake Traegar in the 87th minute, the game ball in the locker room afterward.
When we drafted him we knew he was going to be the kind of player that could compete at this level, and I think he showed tonight that he was going to be able to compete against one of the best players (DaMarcus Beasley) in this country and he held his own, more than held his own, said Columbus coach Greg Andrulis. Thats good for Chris and its good for our team.
While he had been primarily used as a defender during his time at St. Johns as well as the U.S. Under-23 National Team, Wingert started wide in the midfield because of a bevy of injuries.
Before Saturdays game Wingerts rookie MLS career had consisted of four appearances for a total of 66 minutes.
Despite winning the Hermann Award as the nations top collegiate player and his experience on the U.S. Under-23 team that failed to qualify for the summer Olympics, Wingert wasnt picked in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft. He was the second selection of the second round, 12th overall.
The win was great. Having beaten them last time and to make it two in a row against a team you know is going to come after you was very satisfying, Wingert said. We knew how great and dangerous those guys (Chicago) are. We wanted to come out and play a team game and execute our game plan, and that is what we did.
Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.
©2004 Community News Group
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