Interview

Interview: Andrew Wenger

Photo: Courtesy of Duke University

PSP’s Adam Cann talks to the newest member of the Philadelphia Union, Andrew Wenger. Wenger discusses how he learned he had been traded to Philadelphia, his style of play as a forward, his familiarity with the Union coaching staff and players, and more.

Philly Soccer Page: Take me through the basics of the deal. How did you find out and what were your first reactions?

Andrew Wenger: I found out Friday morning. I woke up to a call from an individual on the Montreal technical staff just alerting me I’d been traded. First emotion, I guess, was a little bit of shock. Didn’t see it coming, it was kind of out of the blue, but a lot of excitement. Thrilled to be coming back to Pennsylvania and a team that I’ve followed, individually, for a long time. Obviously, there’s always a bit of sadness leaving friends in Montreal, but that’s part of the job. So more than anything, just excited to be here.

PSP: Did you have any preseason goals that you set it Montreal? And have you started re-evaluating those goals yet, in light of this trade?

AW: I think my goals for any season are to score a certain amount of goals and to contribute. Just to score goals and to get better in other aspects of the game. The workrate, what I do holding up the ball is always going to be there. But scoring goals consistently is the goal.

PSP: For strikers, that’s the only way you get judged in the end, huh?

AW: That’s the stat that matters.

PSP: Did you know that teams were calling [Montreal] about you all the time? 

AW: I had been in Montreal for a long time, and there were times when I heard people were asking about trades. But in the last year, I guess, I kind of just didn’t listen to that stuff anymore. I just tried to focus on getting better and competing for minutes and playing time in Montreal. That was the main focus.

PSP: Part of the appeal of you for Philly was that the coaches were already familiar with you. How well do you know the coaching staff, and have you talked to them about your role yet? 

AW: I haven’t exactly spoken about my role and how that’s going to work out. I assume I’d play somewhere along the forward line, but who knows, and that’ll be determined in the future, no reason to speculate on that. But it’s kind of funny in a sense: I’ve worked with almost all of the coaching staff except for Coach Hackworth extensively or less than extensively at different points throughout my career. I worked with Mike Sorber in Montreal for a year, so we have a good relationship. Rob Vartughian recruited me to Maryland, so we got on quite well personally when I was back in high school, and Jim Curtin, just meeting him in the offseason, we’ve talked about things. It’s funny how that stuff works out.

PSP: When you were drafted, the one major criticism people had of you was that pejorative, “All-around player” tag that gets put on some college players. Part of the story was that since you’d never had to fit into a system, since you were so good, that you wouldn’t be able to. Have you had to make major adjustments for MLS play? What surprised you that you’re still adjusting to?

AW: To start off with, going from college to the pros is very difficult if you have one position that you’re very good at or if you’re good at several positions. I think just the speed of play from college to the pros has been a big change. I think that’s something all players are dealing with on a constant basis and trying to get better at. The quicker you can think, the more dynamic you can be.

PSP: Players talk about speed of play a lot. How does that really manifest itself in a game? Is it how quickly you feel closed down? How quickly you have to think? Is it just that everything feels fast?

AW: You just understand what’s going to happen sooner and anticipate things, instead of being reactive, you’re active.

PSP: Is that something that you think you really need game time to deal with? Is it something you can get in the reserves or in practice? 

AW: I think both are very important.

PSP: Having watched a few of your games this season, it seems like you pop up all over the field, much more than a typical target striker. Is that a remnant from having played all over the field or is it specific to how you try to interpret the role?

AW: I think that’s just the way I’ve learned the game over the years. Especially playing forward, I’ve tried to have a bit more movement, because I’ve always thought it wasn’t hard for a defender to mark a striker that just stayed centrally; it’s easy when a striker just stays between the center backs. But when you have a little bit more movement and try to find different gaps, it becomes trickier.

PSP: Coming from Montreal, where your main competition for minutes was Marco Di Vaio, who seemed to have a starting spot locked down, you’re coming to Philly where there is no clear number one striker on the depth chart. Every week is a possible competition for that role. Does that create a different sort of pressure from what you had in Montreal? Or is it just excitement?

AW: I think it’s excitement. It’s a good situation for me professionally. Hopefully, one of us forwards can figure out a way to be a number one striker, that way it gives the team a little more continuity and we can build on that.

PSP: You started early this year and had some chances that were very close, like Kofi Sarkodie clearing the ball off the line in Houston. Have there been times when your confidence has dropped? Is this move giving you a boost to that confidence?

AW: I think, looking back to last year, my confidence was not always the best, to put it simply. But I think I started off the year brightly and this move just gives me more confidence and more opportunities, which I’m looking forward to.

PSP: You mentioned the stat that matters to you is goals. For a striker, you can have a good game but feel like you didn’t because you didn’t score. Or you can have a so-so game, but score. Do you judge yourself by how many goals you score, or are you able to separate a good performance from simply a goal-scoring performance? 

AW: The stat that matters is always scoring goals. During the course of the season if you have a good game but don’t score a goal, it’s important to stay confident and keep moving forward and know that eventually, the next game, the goal will come, or multiple goals.

PSP: Will it be different playing for Philadelphia? You’ve played with Reading before. But last time you were here it wasn’t the best exit from the game. Are you excited to be back? 

AW: Yeah, absolutely. Hopefully I can have a better debut this time. One that will last a little bit longer.

PSP: It’s nice to have a little irony in your life though, right? Do you know guys in the Philly locker room? 

AW: Yeah, I’ve met most of the guys. There are obviously a bunch of guys that came up with the youth national team together. So I’ve played with a couple of those guys here and there. And in the offseasons I’ll usually come to Philly and practice with some of the guys. So we’ve gotten along quite well.

3 Comments

  1. Welcome back!

  2. OneManWolfpack says:

    Yeah I’m excited to see him play in person on Saturday!

  3. Another nice interview. I was bummed that we didn’t get Andrew when he came out of college. I think he has a ton of upside. Best of luck Andrew, and just remember that as long as you work your a$$ off on the field, the Phaithful will always support you. Don’t be afraid to shoot and may the goalposts always be wide and the goalkeepers be statues!

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