Union

Andrew Wenger: What he’s done and what he’ll bring

Photo: Courtesy of Duke University

On Friday, John Hackworth and the Philadelphia Union sent shockwaves reverberating around Unionville and Major League Soccer when they sent All-Star forward Jack McInerney north of the border in return for Pennsylvania’s own Andrew Wenger.

Fans, staggered by the news, asked why the Union would send away their 21-year-old goal scoring prodigy for a former No. 1 pick with local connections. As details emerged regarding the swap, it became apparent that this was as much a shrewd business move as much as it was a soccer move. McInerney wanted a big payday, and the Union, reluctant to hamstring their own salary budget, opted to get something before they had nothing. Out goes Jack Mac, in comes Andrew Wenger.

An impressive resume
That's not how your hometown debut is supposed to go, but all is now forgiven. (Photo Credit Trey Madara/Reading United A.C.)

That’s not how your hometown debut is supposed to go, but all is now forgiven. (Photo: Trey Madara/Reading United A.C.)

Who is Andrew Wenger? For many Union fans, their first real introduction to the Lancaster County native came two weeks ago when they showered him with boos as he was sent off in his PPL Park debut for a crunching tackle on Union new boy, Vincent Nogueira. The red card was the only blemish on what had been a very good career against the Blue and Gold. In four career games, Wenger victimized the Zolos for two goals and an assist.

Wenger’s soccer resume is quite impressive. The Lititz, Pa. native left home to play for Atlantic Coast Conference soccer powerhouse Duke. While in Durham, he was named the 2009 ACC Rookie of the Year and the 2010 ACC Defensive Player of the Year. In 2011, Wenger switched from defense to offense and proceed to score a league-leading 17 goals on his way to winning the ACC Offensive Player of the Year and the MAC Hermann Trophy, awarded to college soccer’s most outstanding player.

While in college, Wenger spent two summers playing for the Union’s Premier Development League affiliate, Reading United. He featured in 17 matches for two of the most dominant Reading sides in recent history.

A promising start in Montreal is stalled

The Montreal Impact made the college superstar their first ever draft choice, selecting him with the first pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft. With the Impact, the forward was never quite in an environment that allowed him to succeed. Wenger had a brilliant start to his Montreal career, netting two goals in his first two starts as a pro. Then an injury sidelined him, the Impact signed Marco Di Vaio, and the former No. 1 pick’s minutes dwindled.

Enter Marco Schallibaum and his reliance on foreign players, and Wenger’s role within the club was further diminished.

What will he bring to the Union?
Wenger, here marking Amobi Okugo, played 17 matches for Union affliate, Reading United. (Photo Credit: Rachel Boscov/Reading United A.C.)

Wenger, here marking Amobi Okugo, played 17 matches for Union affliate, Reading United. (Photo: Rachel Boscov/Reading United A.C.)

Right about now you’re probably saying, “OK Sean, all that stuff about Wenger’s past is great, but how is he going to help the Union?” Well, I’m glad you asked!

On the field, Wenger is a fundamentally sound, versatile player who will not be outworked. Standing six feet tall, Wenger is an intelligent target forward with good vision that Union manager John Hackworth can deploy at the top of a 4-3-3 formation. Should Hackworth want to use his new man’s versatility, he can deploy Wenger out wide to allow Conor Casey to lead the Union attack. Possessing good speed and strength to take on big defenders and craft goals for himself and his teammates, the Reading United alum is not fully dependent upon the service of others.

Off the pitch, the Union could not be adding a better person to the organization. Wenger’s work ethic is second to none. While racking up a room full of hardware from his playing days at Duke, Wenger hit the books hard in order to graduate from the prestigious school in just three years. He is a polite, respectful, intelligent young man who will be a credit to Philadelphia Union and represent the club with honor.

In joining the Union, the 23-year-old Wenger has the chance to hit the reset button on a promising MLS career. The Union have coveted the Lancaster County native for some time, having made a move to acquire Wenger at this year’s SuperDraft. With all the pieces falling into place, the Union were able to send McInerney and his expiring contract on to Montreal for the supremely talented local lad in need of a change of scenery. In doing so, Hackworth has put his faith in Wenger’s ability to lead the Philadelphia attack for years to come.

With regular playing time and a system that suits his style of play, the Union’s newest acquisition has all the tools and desire to become the River End’s newest hero.

18 Comments

  1. Can’t wait for this weekend’s matches! I hope to see both Wenger and McInerney get some minutes.

  2. Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

    I still think this move ties up a lot of cap space next year for a player that has proven thus far in his MLS career to be unworthy of the contract he has for two more years after this one. I understand not wanting to resign Jack for hip option price. I understand looking for a different style of fwd to compliment our new midfielders and supposed 4-3-3-. I just don’t think this new kid is worth the cost. I would have rather let Jack walk on a free then tie up the cap.

    Also, we keep hearing about what a nice, local guy he is. I want to hear about why as a forward he only scores 1 goal every 4 1/2 games (by minutes) and why we think it will be different for him here. I don’t care that he is nice, I don’t care that he is local, I don’t care that he played multiple positions at Duke, I don’t care that he won the Hermann in college….. I care that he can score goals and provide good holdup play. Nothing that anyone has written so far has explained to me why this is a good move from a on field perspective.

    • Some players need more minutes to score regularly and he was not getting those minutes in MTL. With more playing time, he may score more, and if he does not, he will be out and someone else will come in.

    • hobosocks says:

      Rumor is that Montreal is paying a decent chunk of his salary for a while, similar to how we are still paying some of Soumare’s salary.

      Without knowing what the actual cap hit is, its pretty hard to evaluate whether this is a bad move financially.

    • Dan Walsh says:

      That’s because you can’t back it up until he actually performs on the field at a level comparable to what McInerney did. Let’s see where he is in a few weeks.

  3. Great One says:

    Does anyone know if Wenger has/can play the withdraw. Forward/CAM role in behind Casey?

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      I don’t know for sure, but I have never read anything other than Wenger plays well in a 4-3-3 as the target forward, or maybe out wide on the wing. That said, he did olY multiple positions in college, so maybe he can learn.

  4. OneManWolfpack says:

    I don’t think this is a bad move financially. And to say you would rather let Jack walk for nothing then get something in return is just silly… that’s just bad business. The salaries were almost equal, and with reports that Montreal is paying some of the salary, that makes it even easier to swallow financially.
    .
    On the playing side of things, he leaves some to be desired. I think he needs minutes and I hope he gets them. I don’t want him coming in with 20 minutes left every game and not getting the time to make a difference.
    .
    I’m not jumping for joy over the trade, but I am very willing to give it sometime to work.

    • Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

      I said would rather let him walk on a free then tie up the salary cap on a player hat thus far has NOT proved he is worth his contract in MLS. We do not know how much or IF MTL is picking up some salary. Gonna need money to try and resign Okugo!

      • I don’t think the team was afraid of Jack leaving at the end of the year. I think they were afraid of Jack leaving at the same time as Casey either hanging them up or not having the same quality of play, and then we’re left with big hole at the top. Trading for Wenger now lets us know if we need to go out and sign a striker or not. If he does well, then we’re safe. If not, then we bring in someone else and just take a hit on his salary or find a trade partner.

      • Also, it’s tough to prove your worth if you’re not playing. Jack was practically superglued to row W in the stands until Hackworth threw him in there.

        In the first two years for each player, McInerney averaged 25 minutes per game and a goal every 227 minutes. Wenger averaged 35 minutes and a goal every 335 minutes, but he also had 3 assists, so he contributed to a goal every 209 minutes. Jack had no assists during that time.

        Bottom line is that one player needed real playing time to prove his worth. It’s not wrong to think that the same could be needed for the other guy as well.

  5. kingkowboys says:

    This move is not a bad one once the shock wears off. I was certainly shocked to learn that a guy who has been here since Year One was traded away. After analyzing the move and the reports that have come out I think it makes sense.

    Hopefully Wenger can learn from a similar player in Connor Casey and get minutes when he is spelled. I would also like to see him put in a wide position to move Fernandez or Maidana into a more central role (assuming BC is the odd man out…please do it, please).

  6. There’s another aspect to the “shrewd business move” of this trade as well. The Union simply have not so far developed a similar regional footprint in media coverage that the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and 76ers have, and that is glaringly apparent out here in Lancaster County, where about the only coverage the Union have received in the local newspaper in the last five years has been the addition of MLS standings and scores to the agate text. The Wenger trade got more attention out here than just about anything else the Union have ever done. Every time he suits up and takes the field, it’s now a local sports story here. Wenger, especially if he develops into a prominent MLS player with Philadelphia, could do a lot to build the brand regionally.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      +1

    • Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

      I agree with your assessment. But I am from New Jersey, I care that they WIN games and could care less how Lancaster County feels about the tem/brand. I’m not trying to be a douche and I’m certainly not disparaging Lancaster County, I’m just concerned with results.

  7. Southside Johnny says:

    For those of us still trying to find an upside to the trade, the best I can come up with is that it may well become very clear very soon what an utterly stupid move it was and thereby bring a quicker end to Hackworth’s tenure.

  8. It was funny reading the Montreal Impact facebook page comments about Wenger leaving(in French)They sounded just like the Union fan comments about Mac. Some like him, but some are ready for more goals and are glad he’s going…
    I say come on Wenger, show us what you can do.

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