If there was any doubt where the charisma would come from on the Union roster, it was all cleared up after the club traded Jack McInerney to Montreal for forward Andrew Wenger in early April.
Wenger hit the ground running, ending the season with six goals and four assists and was a key component to a run that kept the club in the hunt for the playoffs right up to the final few weeks of the regular season.
But while there are positives to take from this season, Wenger says he’s not dwelling on the past but instead focusing on a few positives mainly one that must include a winning mentality from each Union player across the board. With the most recent appointment of Jim Curtin being named head coach it's been said numerous times that winning is the only thing that matters.
That’s the mantra Wenger is buying into and one he plans to construct his offseason of preparation around.
“It’s not just so much where we [as a team] can say ‘we need to do better in the last 15 minutes in the game’ – but I think the last 15 minutes of the game over the course of the season is just a smaller sample size of what our locker room needs to develop which is a consistent, winning mentality,” Wenger told philadelphiaunion.com recently. “Granted you can say you want to win, but there’s a difference between doing it and doing it all the time. And I think there’s certain guys in this league that you’ve seen have made the playoffs and have won championships – they have the winning mentality and I think that’s something that we need.”
In explaining what a “winning mentality” looks like, Wenger compared the success of this season’s D.C. United team, a club that went from winning just three MLS matches in 2013 to being the regular season champions of the East and the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
“If you look at D.C. [United] this year, they came in from minute one, set the tone and grinded through results,” Wenger said. “I think that’s what we need to do next year is being able to grind out results from minute one to minute 90 throughout a game. The positives are that we have talented players; a good group of people that want to get better and make sure that we make the playoffs next year and moving forward.”
In the immediate, Wenger said no soccer for him until Thanksgiving.
Three weeks. That’s all the time he says he needs to rest, recover before his schedule of offseason training and preparation. Sticking around the area during the break he’ll do what a lot of other players are doing, taking advantage of involuntary training sessions with strength coach Kevin Miller, playing in spirited pickup matches at YSC Sports and as the season gets closer, the plan of “training somewhere in more structured environment” is the primary goal.
Consistency is the goal going into 2015. Wenger believes a team that can remain consistent can do big things. And with 2015 scheduled to be a big year with the addition of two new teams joining the Eastern Conference, it’s a must that Philadelphia consistently stays in the conversation – from the start.
"Players that perform consistently from [game] one to 34 during the year, those are the teams that make the playoffs,” said Wenger. “Look, I can tell you that none of us, not one single guy in that locker room was happy with how the season ended. Right now we are looking to turn what we see as potential into the real thing. That’s really where we need to make the jump and I believe we have a group of guys that can do it.”
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Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org