At the beginning of the offseason when the Houston Dynamo traded for Cristian Maidana and Andrew Wenger from the Philadelphia Union I, like many others, praised the move. They had acquired a chance creator in Maidana and got younger with the 24-year old Wenger, filling two major needs. It was a good trade for both, and we knew that at the time and we know it now, but after four games of watching Dynamo soccer, we can confirm that we know it for different reasons than four months ago.
Not that Maidana's been a disappointment, but Wenger—originally presumed to be the lesser option in this deal—has been a revelation out on the wing. While injuries have hampered Maidana and Giles Barnes, the American has proved over the past few weeks that he is not only the indefinite starter at right midfielder, he will be a significant part of the attack for the rest of the year.
Wenger has been producing offensively, as he has scored two goals and grabbed two assists through four matches, and he's efficient in the box—already with 11 shots, seven of which were on target. He has also managed to produce good chances from his out-and-out position on the wing, averaging one key pass per game.
Not many wingers already have those kind of stats this early in the season. But while Wenger has done a lot offensively, what sets him apart from other players is his work rate and defensive abilities.
You don't see outside midfielders who have the stamina and determination that Wenger has very often. The former number-one overall draft pick will constantly track back on defense and steal the ball away from opponents—initiating counter-attacks or keeping possession for the Dynamo—and does a good job when tasked with defending one-on-one. His pace is significantly underrated and his technique when making tackles is outstanding.
Case in point:
That is a breathtaking defensive play. Not only does he have the pace to run down the ball from almost midfield, he does it against the best winger in MLS, Fabian Castillo. Castillo is fast. I mean, really, really fast, but so is Wenger, and the former Duke University standout straight-up beat the capped Colombian-international in a head-to-head race. Not only that, when he gets to Castillo, Wenger makes an impeccable, clean tackle and extinguishes the budding FC Dallas attack right then and there.
With this kind of unique skill-set, Wenger could possibly even play right-back if he absolutely had to. Under Jurgen Klinsmann, that's where he would be. But his offensive talents are too great for him to be played out of position, as proven by his notable attacking production. He's a valuable weapon to have.
He had his struggles during his time in Montreal and Philadelphia, but Wenger seems to have gotten everything together. He is played in a system that favors him and he has made a name for himself with his defensive abilities and work-rate, contrasting to what he had done previously in MLS.
Wenger has certainly come a long way since this:
Dynamo fans, rejoice. You have a right to be really, really excited about this guy.