By Dave Zeitlin
Andrew Wenger had trouble breathing on Saturday.
He didn’t have trouble scoring.
Battling through what he called a “sinus thing” that left him gasping for air at times, the third-year pro had arguably the best game of his MLS career, scoring a pair of goals to lead the Union to a 4-2 win over the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday.
“Today was a tough day, to be honest,” Wenger said. “I’m not feeling very well. I feel really sick. Half the day was just trying to keep myself going. But I did have some success going forward. And when you have success, you just have to try to build on that.”
Union fans might want Wenger to feel sick more often. Despite coming into Sunday’s game with just two goals since coming over to Philly in the April trade that sent Jack McInerney to Montreal, Wenger looked like a man possessed against the Earthquakes.
Making just his second start in league play since May 17 – on the left wing – Wenger scored the game’s first goal in the 10th minute with a beautiful strike to the upper right-hand corner to finish a counter-attack. His second goal – and the team’s fourth – came 69 minutes later as he helped seal the win with a terrific run down the middle of the field and calm finish.
For Union interim manager Jim Curtin, playing Wenger on the left wing, where he said he’s “starting to grasp some of the defensive responsibilities that’s leading to goals,” could be a huge boost for the team’s playoff push – as well as Wenger’s still-blossoming career.
“He’s a special player who just needs confidence,” Curtin said. “And a night like tonight certainly gives a guy confidence. … He’s a guy with an incredibly high ceiling. I think you’re seeing the start of something.”
When asked if it was his best game, Wenger hedged before saying that his first MLS brace was “probably a long time coming for how many chances I get in my career.” But upon hearing his teammate’s humility as he walked by him in the locker room, Michael Lahoud stopped what he was doing and demanded to be quoted on record.
“I think that was the best game I’ve ever seen Andrew Wenger play in his career,” Lahoud said. “He was lights out, man of the match. Feed the bear.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com.