— Taylor Twellman (@TaylorTwellman) April 4, 2014
The Philadelphia Union shocked everyone in the American soccer landscape this morning when they shipped off star 21 year old striker Jack McInerney to Montreal for former Reading United forward Andrew Wenger. Fast becoming the Adam Schefter of MLS, Taylor Twellman broke the story before the Union made it official an hour later. Wenger will not be available for tomorrow's match thanks to his red card tackle on Vincent Nogueira's knee in last week's Union-Impact match.
Hackworth released a statement connected with the team's official press release. "Andrew is a young and talented attacking player who we think is a good fit with our style of play," Hackworth stated. "Jack was an important member of our squad over the past four years, but the reality is our team has evolved and this deal puts our team in a better overall position long-term. Andrew is a Pennsylvania native that we are familiar with from his time as a youth and Reading United player and he will be a great addition to our team as both a person and a player going forward."
On the surface, this is a puzzling move. McInerney has been stellar for most of his Union career, notching 25 goals in 95 appearances. Mcinerney even earned a call-up to the US national team last summer after leading the league in goals during the first few months of the season. In the meantime, Wenger has been middling at best, managing only 6 goals in 48 appearances. He started for the Impact this season due to Marco DiVaio's 3 game suspension, but only scored a goal while Montreal lost all three matches. The salary figures between the two players are similar: Jack earned 125K last season (189,667 in guaranteed compensation) while Wenger made 120K (with 222,000 guaranteed). So why make a move like this?
For starters, McInerney has struggled to find his goalscoring touch since returning from the Gold Cup last summer, notching only 3 goals in 23 appearances. His fall in form (most likely linked to the collapse of the Union midfield) was the primary reason the Union missed out on the playoffs last season. McInerney has never looked comfortable this season either. As a striker with the Union, McInerney has played his best soccer paired with a second striker in Conor Casey (which makes the trade odd from Montreal's perspective; the Impact play DiVaio alone up top) since that allowed him to stick to his playing style as a poacher. He was nicknamed "the American Chicarito" for that particular reason. However, Hackworth's new system no longer utilizes two strikers up top. Though the passing in the midfield has improved greatly with the new additions and new formation, the team has not finished enough of their increased goal scoring opportunities, and McInerney looking like a square peg in a round hole as a lone striker has much to do with that.
Tactics weren't the only reason the Union traded away McInerney. McInerney's contract is set to expire after next season. There were concerns in the front office whether McInerney would have been willing to resign with the Union, with the team missing the playoffs last season and McInerney reportedly unhappy with his goal scoring chances last season. Furthermore, Brotherly Game contributor Eugene Rupinski reports that McInerney had started to become a distraction in the locker room.
Hearing that one of the reasons McInerney was moved was that he had become a disruption at practice.— GolazodelGringo (@GolazodelGringo) April 4, 2014
So what are the Union getting in Andrew Wenger? The 23 year old Lancaster, PA native is a better fit in the 4-3-3 as a lone striker thanks to his size (6'0", 185 pounds) and better passing abillity, Wenger played with local youth club PA Classics and local USL-PDL side Reading United. He started his college career at Duke as a centerback before switching to forward in 2011. Wenger was taken as the number one overall pick in the 2012 MLS Superdraft by the Impact. Wenger has struggled to find consistent goalscoring form in Montreal, playing under three different coaches in three years and backing up last year's Golden Boot winner Marco DiVaio. It's unclear whether this move can solve the team's finishing woes, but Wenger playing closer to his hometown with coaches more familiar with his talents can't hurt.
This move looks similar to the Union's 2012 straight swap of Danny Mwanga for Jorge Perlaza. It's a move designed to reinvigorate two promising young players hitting a rough patch by placing them in new environments. With Jack's struggling form this was a better time than any to attempt to get value back for him. The question will be whether Hackworth got enough value in Andrew Wenger. We will see.