Wenger looks to make his mark with Union quickly

Posted: April 12, 2014

Andrew Wenger lingered in the doorway of the media room Wednesday in PPL Park. He had stopped to shake hands with a couple of Union staffers. As he took his seat on the dais, he asked all in the room to say their names.

Even though he is only 23, the Union's newest forward and star attraction has become adept at introductions. But he is hoping this is the last one he has to make for a while.

Wenger, a former No. 1 overall pick acquired in a blockbuster trade with Montreal last week for Jack McInerney, is seeking the stability he never had with the Impact.

A third-year pro, Wenger has already played under four managers. His role was not always clearly defined with Montreal, which had another well-established striker in Marco Di Vaio.

"For me, personally, it was a rough go for long stretches of the time," Wenger said. "A roller coaster. . . . It's kind of been like that the whole time - just fighting for minutes. And I think it's made me a better player, though it hasn't been the ideal start to my career."

His tenure with the Union, which begins with a match in Chester against Real Salt Lake on Saturday, will not lack for such clarity.

Wenger is here to play at the top of the Union's new 4-4-3 formation, a configuration that perhaps did not suit McInerney's skills as well. The Union will expect the Lancaster County native to show the form that made him the collegiate player of the year at Duke in 2011.

"We certainly made this move with the idea that he would be a significant player for us," Union manager John Hackworth said. "We don't want to push it too fast, but we want to make sure we see how he's going to fit in with the group and make a determination about how much playing time he's going to get."

The temptation to compare Wenger and McInerney, forwards in their prime swapped for one another straight up, will be hard to resist.

Injuries and the divided role with Di Vaio limited Wenger to six goals in 51 games. McInerney, two years younger, scored 25 times in 93 appearances with the Union. An original Union player, he became a face of the franchise, though he also endured bouts of inconsistency.

Wenger flatly rejected the idea that filling McInerney's shoes increased the pressure.

"No, I don't think so," he said.

But Wenger does have a pretty good idea of what would soothe the uneasiness of his latest introduction. The Union play three times in eight days starting Saturday.

"The goal would be to get on the scoresheet as soon as possible," Wenger said.

Midfield move

A series of midfield additions in the offseason buried Keon Daniel on the depth chart, which led to the 27-year-old Trinidad & Tobago international's release on Tuesday.

"It kind of left Keon on the outside," Hackworth said. "He was understandably upset that he wasn't going to get the opportunities. So it was a mutual agreement that if he wasn't going to be in our plans, that we would try to find a way to put him in a place where he could play."


tmcmanus@phillynews.com

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