Season Reviews / Union

Season review: Reevaluating the McInerney-Wenger trade

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Way back in April of this year, the Philadelphia Union traded Jack McInerney to Montréal Impact for Andrew Wenger. Regardless of the motivations for the trade, it had a touch of déjà vu about it.

How many times had this organization shipped out or let slip a fan favorite or young player that had been with the team for some time? Le Toux, Califf, Mwanga, Torres — the list is long, and it also didn’t seem to make much sense. While McInerney was not scoring at the same rate as his red-hot streak from 2013, at least he seemed to have that capacity. Andrew Wenger, once a college star and top draft pick, had never shown the ability to be a consistent threat at the pro level.

Some fans were upset at the loss of McInerney, and most were underwhelmed by Wenger, but the trade made sense for both teams. Neither player was producing what he seemed capable of, and it was hoped a change of scenery might jumpstart them.

So, looking back now, was it the right move for either or both teams? Did one fare better than the other? Who “wins” the trade?

Jack McInerney

Let’s first compare McInerney’s performance in 2014, pre- and post-trade. (All goal stats can be found at either team’s website, or MLSsoccer.com.)

Jack Mac on the Union: Prior to the trade, McInerney hadn’t played particularly well in 2014. He started all four games, but scored just one goal in 312 minutes, with one assist. He had 12 shots, with 5 on goal, for a shots-on-goal percentage of 42 percent. His overall chance conversion rate was eight percent and his on-goal conversion rate was 20 percent. These numbers are only okay, but of course the sample size is very small. While he put a relatively high percentage of his shots on goal, his overall conversion rate was bad. He only took 12 shots total, and only scored once, for a goals-per-90 percentage of 0.29. Over the course of a season, that amounts to fewer than a goal every three games, which isn’t what you want out of your main striker.

Jack Mac on the Impact: For Montréal, McInerney saw a lot more game time, more even than Marco DiVaio, who had injury problems. McInerney played in 26 games, starting 21, for a total of 1804 minutes. In that span, he took 44 shots, putting 14 on frame, and scored seven. He also contributed one assist. So, for the Canadians, his shots-on-goal percentage fell to 32 percent, his on-goal conversion rate jumped to 50 percent, and his overall conversion rate rose to 15.9 percent. His goals-per-90 also went up to 0.35.

So while the Philly portion of Jack’s 2014 season is obviously truncated, it would seem he had a better time of it in Montréal. While he still wasn’t as prolific as one would hope, the retirement of DiVaio should give McInerney more opportunities, which he should take, as his main issue seems to be taking too few shots and not putting enough on target. DiVaio, for instance, played fewer minutes than McInerney, but took 31 more shots and put a higher percentage on goal (43%).

Andrew Wenger

Now on to Wenger.

Wenger in Canada: Again with the caveats about small sample sizes, Wenger also played in four games before the trade, starting three, for a total of 286 minutes. He scored one goal on seven shots, four of them on goal (57 percent), for an overall conversion rate of 14 percent, and an on-goal conversion rate of 25 percent. So, while the goal totals are similar to McInerney’s in Philly, Wenger was more efficient. Still not at starting-striker levels, though.

Wenger in Philly: For the Union, Wenger played in 28 games, starting 19, for a total of 1834 minutes. He scored six goals on 59 shots (10 percent), putting 23 on goal (39 percent), for a goals-per-90 rate of 0.29. Wenger also had four assists to McInerney’s one.

Wenger also enjoyed the trade, it would appear. He played a great deal more, and was more productive than he had been previously, even if his hard numbers in 2014 declined as a result of the sample sizes.

The scorecard

From a pure numbers perspective, it’s very close. Jack had one more goal than Wenger and was more efficient, but Wenger had several more assists. What the numbers don’t show, too, is that the players did not play in similar positions. While Wenger came to Philly as a striker, it soon became apparent that was not his best role. His evolution into a “target winger” brought about his best form after playing quite a bit without good results. Extrapolate his form in that position over the course of the whole season, and his numbers would look better.

Would the teams do it again?

For Philly, the answer is an unqualified “Yes.” Conor Casey, playing 400 fewer minutes than McInerney, scored more goals and had more assists in 2014, and was more efficient in taking his chances. Which is to say that McInerney was likely not going to play all that much in his preferred role. Add in the emergence of Wenger as a weapon on the wing, and the trade is a definite positive for the Union.

For Montréal, the answer is less clear cut, but still a “Yes.” Wenger was stagnating in Canada. It’s debatable whether the system in Montréal could even accommodate what he is now doing so well for Philadelphia, and with the retirement of DiVaio, Montréal need a relatively proven scorer in the poacher mold. That’s McInerney.

Who wins?

In the end, neither player made huge leaps forward on paper, but Wenger’s improvement tips this one toward Philly. While the results of the 2014 season amount to basically a draw, assuming Wenger’s evolution into a dangerous wing player continues (or even simply plateaus at its current level), he could easily double his overall goal and assist tallies from this season, especially if his shooting can become more efficient. McInerney, on the other hand, has yet to again show the potency of his hot streak from 2013. That period is looking more and more like an outlier rather than an indication of future performance. As it stands, he is a serviceable striker, but not a star (though perhaps DiVaio’s retirement opens the door to more growth).

However, this is one of those rare cases of a trade where neither side should feel they got the short end of the stick. McInerney in Montréal is an upgrade on Wenger in Montréal, just as the reverse is also true in Philly.

7 Comments

  1. I’m calling it now, Wenger is fools gold. Call me crazy but a player with no clear position playing “well” in his first handful of games as a winger does not fill me with confidence that he is any sort of long term answer.

    We’ve fallen in love with honeymoon periods before here – in fact we seem to do it all the time – so I’m just going to step back while people fall over themselves to circle Wenger in as our winger next year (though I am sure our coaches all ready did too).

    In the long term I think this trade will still kill us. Wenger will mostly likely prove to be not a good winger and we will continue to play musical chairs with his position. But we also will never move on from him because of his “grit” “determination” and “local roots.”

    In the meantime at the very worse Jack will be a capable striker sub who can exploit channels and find space in tired defenses. Hell, at this point who would you rather have as the first strike sub off the bench? Jack or Sapong? Different types of players but not much separates them.

    • I agree that there’s no cause to believe Wenger will grow into a star, but he’s been productive from the wing. Having a winger who scores and assists goals on a regular basis is more useful than an okay striker substitute, in my opinion. The Union still need a very good starting striker, but McInerney isn’t it, so having Wenger in addition to that starting striker is an upgrade.

    • James I’m sorry to say it but you are completely wrong. Will Wenger ever turn into a star probably not, but he has shown that he has the skill set to make a good winger in the league. He has pace, he can cross the ball, and will score goals on occasion. In Wenger going to set the world on fire? No, but can he contribute week in and week out, of course he can. Wenger is not simply a grit and determination player, while he can do these things, he can also keep the ball and make smart decisions. I think with another year to work on his game, and focusing on playing as a winger will provide Wenger with some major growth.

  2. I think if Wenger can start off where he ended this past season there can be high hopes for him and the rest of the team. He has to work on his control with possession and obviously his shooting accuracy. If he does that he can be very dangerous for the U in 2015. As for Sapong, he is ten times better than Jack. Jack does not have the ability that Sapong does and a lot separates them. Sapong’s hold up play is a lot stronger then Jack’s and he can take on players as well. I am excited to see if Sapong can regain his spark.

  3. The Chopper says:

    Andrew Wenger also appears to be a respected teammate and a nice addition to the locker room. Not sure the same can be said about Jack.

  4. OneManWolfpack says:

    I was shocked and concerned about the trade when it happened. Now I would make the trade 100 out of 100.
    .
    Jack Mac is not fast enough, and too small to take the next step. Wenger isn’t the next coming of Robben or anything, but I think he fits this team better. And I agree with another comment: He seems like a much better teammate.

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