CHESTER, Pa. – Andrew Wenger isn’t shy about what he hopes to accomplish in his first game with the Philadelphia Union.
Sure, just stepping onto the field at PPL Park when the Union host Real Salt Lake on Saturday (4 pm ET; Univision Deportes, MLS Live) will be a thrill for the Philadelphia-area native. But Wenger, who was traded for Jack McInerney last Friday, wants more in his Union debut.
“The goal,” he said, “would be to get on the score sheet as soon as possible.”
For Wenger, goals have come at a premium since he was selected first overall by the Montreal Impact in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft.
Calling his tenure in Montreal a “roller coaster,” Wenger scored just six times in his two-plus seasons with the Impact (with two coming against the Union), while constantly searching for a permanent place in the rotation.
“It was kind of like that the whole time – just fighting for minutes,” he said. “I think it’s made me a better player – though it hasn’t been the ideal start to my career.”
While Wenger will still need to fight for minutes in Philly, Union manager John Hackworth has made no secret that he has big plans for Wenger as the target forward in the team’s 4-3-3 formation.
Veteran Conor Casey can also occupy that spot, though, so Wenger will likely be eased into the lineup and start Saturday’s game off the bench.
“I think reasonable expectations would be that he contributes and that he shows his qualities on the field when given the opportunity,” Hackworth said. “He’s only been in training a couple of days with us. We certainly made this move with the idea that he would be a significant player for us. So 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 of how much playing time he’s going to get.”
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Making Wenger's transition easier is the fact that he's trained with some of his Philly teammates while home for breaks. He also played alongside Aaron Wheeler and Ray Gaddis at Union affiliate Reading United A.C. a few years ago and, of course, grew up playing soccer just a short drive from Chester.
Returning to Pennsylvania to play professionally is not something he’s taking for granted.
“It’s pretty special,” Wenger said. “It’s nice to be home.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.