Andrew Wenger, right, lunges for the ball as Seattle Sounders' DeAndre Yedlin looks on.
Even if you're the most casual Union fan, the name you know is young striker Jack McInerney. I'd guess if you asked any Philly sports fan to name one Union player, he's the name you'd get 90 percent of the time.
As of today, he's no longer a Union player.
McInerney bid a heartfelt farewell to Union fans, with a perfect understanding of how he expects to be received upon his return (August 9).
And most importantly the amazing @PhilaUnion fans. When I bang on you later this season I expect nothing but boos and the harshest comments
— Jack McInerney (@JackMcInerney9) April 4, 2014
On the surface, this seems like a strange move to many Union fans. At this time last year, McInerney was scoring at will, on his way to a team-high 12 goals for the year. Things were very different, though, at the end of the season. McInerney scored just twice after June 1, and only started four of the last nine Union games. McInerney finished with 25 goals in his Union career, but...
9 goals in 3 months, 16 in the other 3 1-2 years.
— Bungles Danforth (@Capt_Unpossible) April 4, 2014
Wenger (on Twitter @andrewwenger), who is from Lancaster and played for Reading United (now a minor league affiliate of the Union), was the first overall pick of the 2012 MLS SuperDraft and tallied six goals in 18 starts.
(The Union now have three No. 1 overall picks on the roster: Wenger (2012), Maurice Edu (2007) and Andre Blake (2014)).
Those numbers won't wow you, but Wenger also was never "the man" in Montreal, often playing alongside Marco Di Vaio, who doesn't exactly love sharing the ball.
You may be upset with McInerney leaving, and I'm not saying it's a total "win" trade yet either. But let's put it this way, fans have been begging for years for the Union to live in the now and stop always focusing on the future.
That's exactly what they're doing with this trade. Anyone who tries the "typical Union, getting rid of a player everyone likes" argument is not paying attention. Hackworth was quite candid in his call with the media on Friday (quotes from our friend Dave Zeitlin).
"It’s one of those days that this business requires, that’s the way i’ll put it. You don’t like some of the moves you have to make in order for your team to be successful. But if you believe you’re doing the right thing, you have to do it. We want to wish Jack well in everything he does in the future and at the same time we’re excited. We have a player in Andrew Wenger that we feel will be really good for us now and in the long term.
The move has everything to do with the "right here, right now" attitude that John Hackworth is operating under this season. This is it for him, and he knows it. He doesn't have to win a title this year to keep his job, but he can't wait around for McInerney to figure out whatever has ailed him for the last 10 months, or learn to play in the team's new 4-3-3 formation.
For the first time in the Union's short history, the team has a steady formation and relatively set lineup that seems to be working. The only part that isn't working is the finishing in the final third. Wenger won't score 20 goals this year, but it was time for a change.
After years with an evolving midfield, the Union are now midfield-centric. With Edu, Vincent Nogueira and Cristian Maidana on the squad, it's now time to build around them. And the 4-3-3 formation is generating possession in the midfield and chances on the attack. In fact, many of the good chances in the last few games have come from midfielders like Nogueira.
Even before the season started, I (and many others) wondered if McInerney could work in the 4-3-3 formation. After four games, that worry has only grown stronger. I don't pretend to know much about Wenger, but people who do seem to think he could be a better fit in the 4-3-3. Hackworth clearly agrees
Right now we it as a straight swap -- forward for forward. He is more of a prototypical No. 9 than Jack was or is. That’s where we see him. But he is versatile enough, which we really like. You could put him on the left or right, or drop him into the midfield and he’d be effective. I’ve watched him for a long time.
FYI: Wenger is suspended this week after a red-card tackle last week. So you'll likely see Casey start against Chicago on Saturday (5 p.m. - Comcast SportsNet). Amobi Okugo gave him a gentle ribbing Friday for the tackle.
@andrewwenger welcome home buddy... By the way team fine for that tackle last week
— Amobi Okugo (@amobisays) April 4, 2014
Finally, there seem to be many who think McInerney already had his eyes on bigger and better things, even if his recent play doesn't scream "Europe." It was also understood by those "in the know" that McInerney was going to ask for a hefty raise to stay here when his contract was up.
The longer McInerney tried to play in the 4-3-3 formation, the more his flaws (at least in that formation) were going to be exposed. And the more his flaws were exposed, the more his value was going to plummet. In fact, if Conor Casey is truly fully healthy, I was about to call for McInerney to be left out of the starting XI. Not that I think Casey is ideal in the 4-3-3, either, but it was time for a change of pace.
So, Friday's trade may not be a popular move, especially with many casual fans, and I'm not 100 percent sold just yet. But it's nice to see the Union living in the now, instead of angling for more allocation money.