CHESTER, Pa. – Earlier this season, Andrew Wenger returned home to try to revive his career with the Philadelphia Union after a couple of rocky seasons with the Montreal Impact.
Now it looks like he might have found a positional home, as well.
Over the last three games – all wins – Wenger has started on the left wing for the Union, scoring three goals in that stretch to match his total from the previous five months combined when he was mostly deployed as a center forward.
“It’s different out there on the wing than it is being the high guy in the spot where Conor [Casey] has been,” Union interim manager Jim Curtin said. “You don’t have someone on your back all the time. He’s able to get the ball now, focus on just beating one man and going in. He’s really embraced that role. When he gets a head of steam running at you, he’s as dangerous as anyone in our league.”
Wenger had been mostly used as a target striker since coming into the league as the top overall pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, but the 23-year-old was also an excellent defender at both the high school and collegiate level.
Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that Wenger isn’t sure how long his new position will stick.
“I’ve said I felt comfortable in a lot of positions before, and it hasn’t worked out or the coach has seen something differently,” Wenger said. “I feel comfortable there until they tell me to play somewhere else.”
Curtin, though, is optimistic that this can be the start of something big for Wenger. Lauding the player’s newfound commitment to defense – which, Curtin said, “is creating offensive opportunities for him” – the Union manager said that “it’s looking like” left wing is Wenger’s best position.
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But like Wenger, Curtin is also trying to be careful not to read too much into one very good stretch.
“It’s still early,” the Union manager said. “It’s been a good run of games, but I’m a big believer that I like to see guys put entire seasons together. And it’s new for him. That’ll be the challenge – to keep putting game after game together.”
Regardless of what the future holds for him, one thing is for certain: Wenger’s strong run of play helped the Union notch just their second three-game winning streak in club history to get into playoff position.
And after starting just one game from May 25 through Aug. 15, the Pennsylvania native is glad to be at the center of his hometown team’s success and be a part of an efficient attack that features the red-hot Casey as the center forward and the equally hot Sebastien Le Toux on the other wing.
“I’m finding some good spots,” Wenger said. “I think I broke down a little bit toward the end of those three games. But things are coming together a little bit.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.