It’s only one game, but it certainly looks like the Philadelphia Union have found a talented striker in new acquisition Andrew Wenger. The former Montreal Impact forward scored in his first match for Philadelphia, breaking-up a scoreless tie in the 55th minute against Real Salt Lake. The goal followed a near-miss in the first-half that ticked off the top of the cross bar.
Wenger, who grew-up in Lancaster County and was once a member of the Union’s affiliate in Reading, seemed very much at home with his new teammates, slapping hands and talking-up his side excitedly moments before the first touch. That quick familiarity extended into the game where Wenger seemed anxious to break forward, anticipating multiple long balls from his new midfield. The 23-year-old might have gotten more chances had the Union been closer to target on their feeds, especially in the first half.
Meanwhile, 450 miles to the north, the guy going the other way in the Wenger deal was having a nice day of his own. About 13 minutes before Wenger triggered his first PPL Park Doop Dance, former Union scoring leader Jack McInerney raced full-tilt to net on a clever feed from Felipe Martins and Impact offensive ogre Marco Di Vaio and banged one in on the run against Chicago. In case you missed it, here are the game highlights. The goal occurs 2 minutes into the clip.
Having not seen the entire match, I’m not certain how many other chances McInerney generated or helped to create, although I can tell you that Montreal was outshot 17-6 by the Fire and the match ended in a one-one draw. The Chicago Tribune reports that Di Vaio fed McInerney a second time but the former Philadelphia forward guided the ball wide. Montreal may well be on its way to a lot of those sorts of plays with Di Vaio targeting Jack downfield, which better suits the style the Impact has adapted since Di Vaio exploded onto the MLS scoring leader board last season.
Wenger, on the other hand, appears happy with his new situation as well. Suddenly, there are balls winging his way from any number of helpers. He was constantly pushing forward and drawing the attention of multiple sources (even defender Sheanon Williams, who was in a giving mood on that near-miss crossbar dinger). In turn, you got the impression that the Union midfielders were happy to have an open target springing ahead of them for a change. With any luck, they’ll get a little better with their feeds, which were largely off-target in that first half.
ANOTHER NICE THING ABOUT THAT GOAL
The movement up the field was sensational on the Union’s part and the goal itself came off a perfect feed by Vincent Nogieura who continues to show why the Union worked so hard in the waining moments of the off-season to pry him away from Ligue 1 in France. Nogieura said at the time that he was excited to try life in the states. Hopefully, his success here is making the transition an even easier one.
ANOTHER THING ABOUT THAT OTHER GOAL
For the second straight week, Maurice Edu put one in the back of the net, this time on a beautiful header off a big-league corner kick from Christian Maidiana. That means that both goals last week were scored and assisted by the four newest members of the Union offense.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK, IT’S A WINLESS TOWN!
Philadelphia plays a rare Wednesday night match on the road against the Red Bulls (7:30 p.m., TCN) who have joined the legions of teams in the MLS Eastern Conference who would apparently rather play to a draw than a win. New York is 0-2-4 and firmly entrenched in 9th place. New York still has star striker Thierry Henry who leads the club in shots with 19 but who’s only notched one goal so far. The Union has been unable to keep hungry, big-name players off the board in recent matches, as both Marco Di Vaio (Montreal) and Mike McGee (Chicago) have netted their first goals of the year against Philadelphia. Denying Thierry his second has to be a priority for the Union defense.
New York’s scoring leader is Peguy Luyindula with 2, but the usual suspects are still contributing; Dax McCarty and Jonny Steele each have one. The problem has for the Red Bulls is that they haven’t been getting much else. New York is scoring at a one-goal-per-game clip while giving-up almost twice that. What’s more, they’re coming-off a 1-0 shut-out loss to DC United. Perhaps, Philadelphia is catching them at a good time.
IN THE EAST, WHERE’S THE BEAST?
Every time you turn around, the cards get shuffled in the MLS Eastern Conference, with clubs that only recently seemed on the outs suddenly springing forward and others high in the standings taking dives. The active movement is made simpler by all the draws, which are allowing anyone who feels like winning one or two matches to make quick progress. The Columbus Crew are suddenly in first place with DC United and New England hitting the board in play-off positions. Last year’s power houses, Montreal and New York, are in the basement. Houston, next Saturday’s Union opponent, has now slipped beneath Philadelphia after notching its 3rd loss last week. Only Houston and Toronto have failed to play to a draw this season. Overall, the Eastern Conference clubs have 15 wins, 19 losses and a whopping 21 ties. The Union’s 4 draws have cost them. They’ve now slipped into 6th place. But the division is so packed that a win in New York miraculously catapults Philadelphia into first, something that could lend an extra sense of urgency to Philadelphia’s game on Wednesday.