When the Philadelphia Union took on the Portland Timbers at PPL Park on Saturday, it had been exactly nine months to the day since Andrew Wenger last scored a goal. That streak came to an end in the 69th minute when he scored from outside the box to give Philadelphia its first goal in an eventual 3-0 win. Speaking to reporters after the game, Wenger admitted that his inability to score this season has, at times, been mentally challenging. “There’s been good days and there’s been bad days,” he said. “And there’s probably been a few more bad days than good. But that’s the life of a soccer player or an athlete… you just try to move forward.” Wenger also credited head coach Jim Curtin for showing confidence in him throughout his scoreless streak. “[He told me] ‘you’re a good player, just keep going. Just keep after it. Keep moving forward.’ And that’s all you really can do…some of the best players out there, that’s all they’ve ever done.” After the game, Curtin acknowledged the importance of Wenger’s goal, but also pointed to other ways in which he has contributed this season, even if they weren’t readily visible on a stat sheet. “He’s gotten good looks this year; nothing has seemed to go in for him,” Curtin said. “But I still see the guy from preseason…the little things that he does…he won probably ten head balls tonight off goal kicks, he fights defensively…he protects [left back] Fabinho, he does a good job making Fabi’s job a lot easier…he’s doing a lot of the dirty running…Every good pro goes through moments of dips in form, and how you respond to it is how you’re judged. It’s easy to quit and bail out, but the good ones, the ones who belong and stick in this league and have great careers are the ones that can deal with that.”
Wenger’s ability to overcome his scoreless streak is a testament to his accountability, his patience, and his commitment to focusing on the controllables. While a “slump” like this can certainly be frustrating and even overwhelming as a player, there are steps you can take to help you manage, and ultimately overcome, any rough patch. First, it’s important to take ownership over the part of your game that is giving you trouble. Facing a “slump”, many players fall into the habit of blaming anyone but themselves for their substandard performance. While it may be true that a teammate’s performance, a coach’s decisions, or even blind luck can play a role in whether or not, as an attacking player, you’re scoring goals, blaming your performance on any one of these factors will do you no good. Instead, being accountable for your struggles allows you to take steps to overcome them. Second, having taken ownership, identify specific ways to work on whatever part of your game needs improvement. Set process goals, or daily objectives, that determine how you will specifically go about bettering this aspect of your performance. Third, whether you’re working to rediscover your scoring touch or improve your 1v1 defending, also take time to identify other areas of your game that can make you effective on the field. Wenger received praise from his coach for his effort in winning defensive headers, his discipline in making a teammate’s job easier, and his commitment to doing the “dirty running”. Likewise, pinpoint small ways in which you can make a positive impact on or off the field. Ultimately, overcoming a “slump” comes down to recognizing that “how you respond to it is how you’re judged.” Wenger may not score in every game moving forward, but his accountability, his patience, and his commitment to focusing on the controllables will help him cope with whatever adversity he may face.
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