Wenger is Dyno-mite in Houston

By on June 15, 2016

 

Houston Dynamo midfielder Andrew Wenger creates a scoring opportunity for his club during action earlier this season. (Photo courtesy of the Houston Dynamo)

Houston Dynamo midfielder Andrew Wenger creates a scoring opportunity for his club during action earlier this season. (Photo courtesy of the Houston Dynamo)

As first impressions go, Lititz’s Andrew Wenger couldn’t have done more.

Traded to the Houston Dynamo in an off-season Major League Soccer deal with the Philadelphia Union, the 2009 Warwick High School grad would have made NASA proud with the liftoff he got.

Wenger took a giant leap into the hearts of Dynamo fans when he was voted MLS Player of the Week after scoring two goals and one assist in Houston’s 5-0 shutout of FC Dallas on March 12.

That came on the heels of scoring a goal in a 3-3 draw with the New England Revolution in Houston’s season opener just six days earlier.

“That was good,” Wenger said. “Unfortunately, we only got four points out of those two games to start the season.”

Since, the points haven’t been any more lavish.

Glenn Grove, a 1969 Warwick High School grad, and his wife, Paula, have been regulars at Houston Dynamo home games this season, supporting Andrew Wenger by displaying homemade signs and wearing Warwick and Duke University T-shirts.

Glenn Grove, a 1969 Warwick High School grad, and his wife, Paula, have been regulars at Houston Dynamo home games this season, supporting Andrew Wenger by displaying homemade signs and wearing Warwick and Duke University T-shirts.

In fact, Houston has gone just 2-7-3 in their past 12 contests. Amid that stretch, the Dynamo parted ways with manager Owen Coyle and promoted Wade Barrett as the interim coach.

Yes, in regards to the playoff picture, the Houston club is on the outside looking in right now, but they remain upbeat. As Wenger is quick to note, the club has a lot of confidence in the talent on the roster.

The schedule-makers provided the Dynamo with a 16-day MLS break following back-to-back 1-1 draws at the Vancouver Whitecaps and FC Dallas, but they return to action this Saturday hosting D.C. United.

“We have a bunch of very good players and we’re looking forward to getting back out there and getting going with the last second two-thirds of the season,” said Wenger, who leads the club in shots (26) and shots on goal (12). “It hasn’t gone as well we’d have liked so far, but we’re confident of the way we can play and we’re confident in what we’re doing.”

Glenn Grove, a 1969 Warwick grad who has re-located to the Houston area with his wife, Paula, has enjoyed a front-row seat at the Dynamo’s games this season. In years past, the Groves ventured to BBVA Compass Stadium when Wenger was in town with the Union, but now that he is wearing the Dynamo’s orange-colored uniforms, they haven’t missed a home date.

“I think that these players all want to play for (Barrett). I also think the talent is definitely there too,” said Grove, a retired soon-to-be 65-year-old. “I think this team has had more than its share of bad luck. The same thing with Andrew. In his last game, he had two great shots on goal. The first one was right to the goalkeeper, and the second one, he just missed to the left.”

For the season, the former Warrior star is currently tied for second on the club in scoring with three goals, to go with two assists. In 26 games with Philadelphia last season, he finished with one goal and two helpers.

But Grove said Wenger’s stats could easily be more impressive at this point.

“It’s really enjoyable to watch him, it really is … even if he hasn’t scored as many goals as he could have,” Grove said. “If karma enters the picture, he’s worth at least seven, eight goals right now.”

His third goal of the season &tstr; in a 2-0 win over Sporting Kansas City on May 7 &tstr; was a thing of beauty, according to Grove.

“It was a beautiful left-footed goal into the upper left-hand corner, it was a blast,” he said. “And he’s right-footed. That shows how talented he is.”

That goal was among the highlights on a Houston-based TV show, “Rewind,” which aired recently. The cameras followed Wenger to the sideline as he celebrated the goal, and then they panned to the Groves, who were holding hand-made signs, inscribed with “Amish Soccer” and “Keep Calm, We Got Wenger.”

At another game, they had a sign, “The Duke of Dynamos,” playing off of his Blue Devil days when he won the Hermann Trophy, presented to the top male and female college soccer players. The Groves also have Warwick and Duke T-shirts bearing the numbers &tstr; 33 and 10 &tstr; he wore in school.

“All these things, he’s probably seen unless he’s blind,” Grove said. “If he wasn’t on that field, we wouldn’t be at those games. Are you kidding me? On Saturday, with what it’s going to be like on June 18 in Houston in an outdoor stadium?”

Wenger has, in fact, noticed the Groves at Houston’s games. He shook hands with them in the first couple of games and exchanged first names.

“I guess the world isn’t as big as you thought and it’s great to have people to support you even when you’re a long way from home,” Wenger said.

If the Dynamo can claw its way into a playoff spot over the next few months, they will no doubt have a lot of support in the Houston city limits. Currently, they are 10th in the Western Conference with 13 points, seven behind for the San Jose Earthquakes for the sixth and final post-season berth.

“We have a great locker room. A lot of guys have played in MLS for a long time or played on big clubs around the world,” Wenger said, “and they know what it takes to get it done and to win games and it’s been good.”

In his first four seasons in MLS, Wenger has been to the playoffs just one time &tstr; in his second year with the Montreal Impact. Helping the Dynamo get to the post-season is at the top of his wish list.

Asked if he has any personal goals in terms of goal-scoring this season, Wenger said, “Whatever has to be done to get us into the playoffs is what’s helpful. Obviously, the more goals the better, but I don’t always hang my hat on that at the end of the day. There’s a lot more that goes into playing well.”

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 Major League Soccer SuperDraft, Wenger is playing for his third club in five seasons. But Grove believes that he has found a home in Houston.

“He’s just multi-talented,” Grove said. “If you go back and look at the top-10 highlight plays for him this year, five of them will be defensive. He saved the day I don’t know how many times … He’s also very quick, he’s got both feet. You can’t really tell which direction he’s coming. He’ll take on players. He’s really got it all.”

Well, as Grove will tell you, Wenger needs just one more thing to have it all &tstr; a spot on the U.S. Men’s National Team. Grove, a.k.a. Sign Man, might have something up his sleeve &tstr; a message for USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann &tstr; when the Dynamo return to the field this Saturday.

“We’re making some more (signs) this week,” he said. “I think what we’re going to do is we’re going to say, ‘Klinsmann, You Need Wenger’ … He’s at least better than half that National team, I swear to God.”

For now, Wenger will surely settle for having his Dynamo squad move its way up the MLS Western Conference standings into a playoff position.

It would only add to the positive first impression that he has already made.

“Anything can happen once you’re there,” Wenger said, “but it would just be the culmination of a lot of hard work.”

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