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Final

Weeks after being booed by Philadelphia Union fans, Andrew Wenger enjoys strong debut at PPL Park

CHESTER, Pa. – The first time Andrew Wenger played at PPL Park, he was a member of the visiting team and was booed off the field after being shown a red card.

Just two weeks later, he played at PPL Park again – only this time, the Sons of Ben supporters' group chanted his name after he scored a goal for the home team in the Philadelphia Union’s 2-2 draw with Real Salt Lake on Saturday.

“That was pretty damn cool,” said Wenger, who was traded from Montreal to Philadelphia in exchange for Jack McInerney on April 4, just a few days after he suited up for the Impact at PPL Park. “Much better than the f-words they were giving me last week.”

The home fans had good reason to chant his name. Aside from his team failing to get the win, Wenger’s Philly debut was everything he could have hoped for as the Philadelphia-area native got the start as the team’s primary striker, played 86 minutes, and proved himself in a big way to his teammates.

“Not only did he score the goal but he worked his ass off,” Union midfielder Maurice Edu said. “He was tracking back, making tackles, breaking up plays – he showed a lot of good traits today. I’m very pleased for him to get that first goal, which is always difficult. I think he’s going to be a good asset for our team.”

Wenger only got to train with the Union for less than a week leading into Saturday’s game, but he still looked right at home in Philadelphia – which is probably not surprising considering he grew up in nearby Lancaster.

And after some anxious moments to start the game and a missed opportunity to score in the first half when his shot skimmed the crossbar, Wenger was thrilled to open his Philadelphia scoring account in the 55th minute after receiving a pass from Vincent Nogueira that Union manager John Hackworth called “sublime.”

“That’s fantastic,” said Wenger, who said he had about 15 family members in the crowd. “I guess I don’t have that question hanging over my head as when [my first goal] is going to happen.”

Indeed, scoring right way should certainly take some pressure off Wenger, who struggled to find the back of the net during a rocky two-year tenure in Montreal. But for the No. 1 overall SuperDraft pick, that’s all in the past. And, in the future, the Union believe he’ll score many more goals and hear his name chanted many more times.

“He has a new lease,” Hackworth said. “I think he knows that we believe in him. It’s going to be really important for him to be here and play the way he just did.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.