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Season review: Jack McInerney

John “Jack” McInerney was an up-and-coming teenage talent in the fall of 2009. Signing a Generation Adidas contract coming out of high school in Florida, the US U-15 and U-17 star entered the 2010 MLS Superdraft at 17-years-old and was the youngest player selected. The Philadelphia Union nabbed him with the 7th overall pick, to the surprise of many analysts, and he quickly joined a cadre of teenage talent that the Union amassed during its expansion season including Amobi Okugo, Danny Mwanga, and Roger Torres. I remember watching the draft and hearing McInerney referred to as ‘a project,” someone that Peter Nowak and John Hackworth would have to work hard to develop over several years. Apparently someone forgot to inform McInerney that he wasn’t ready for prime time.

The subject of many nicknames as the season went along (Union Jack, Jack Mac, etc.), McInerney developed a following among fans early on. Coming on as a late substitute in Philadelphia’s first ever game in Seattle, McInerney attempted a bicycle kick on a bouncing ball with the Union down two-nil. Though the acrobatic maneuver was ultimately ineffective, McInerney put on display the fearlessness with which he approached playing at the professional level. As the season progressed, McInerney became a regular, late game substitute off the bench. He defied the ‘project’ tag that was applied to him during the draft and contributed three goals for the expansion Union.

High point

The high point of McInerney’s season in my mind, and perhaps the most iconic goal of McInerney’s young career, was his leveling goal away to New England on August 28. With New England ahead one-nil, down to ten men, and throwing up a defensive wall, Peter Nowak emptied the bench in the second half and went for the kill. Creating few chances in the second half despite an offensive shape, Justin Mapp’s weighted cross in the 82nd minute sat down just to the right of the penalty spot and Jack swept it off the turf and into the lower right corner past Bobby Shuttleworth. McInerney’s celebratory shirt-removal was carded by referees but cheered by his many fans. As we tweeted at the time: “Apparently that #DOOP was so strong, it knocked Jack’s shirt off”. Though the card was a bit reckless to pickup, it was a beauty of a goal. McInerney made the play look easy when, in fact, it required unbelievable timing to just get the ball on frame. Making a sneaky run through the heart of New England’s defense, McInerney propelled the Union onward toward victory as Mapp would ultimately net the winner in the 92nd.

Low point

17-years-old, drafted in the first round, played in 17 MLS games plus friendlies (where he netted the game winner against Chivas). Where’s the downside of that? If McInerney’s goal is world domination, he still has a long way to go (don’t doubt him). But coming out of high school, onto the bench of a professional soccer club where he was an impact substitute, and scoring three times in the time equivalent of six games? You find a low point.

Stat Line

17 appearances, 1 start, 350 minutes played, 3 goals, 9 shots, 3 shots on goal

Strengths

Ball skills, finishing, ambition, vision. McInerney is a daring player around the net who tries to make plays others don’t go for. Alejandro Moreno described him as a “poacher,” and that seems accurate.

Weaknesses

I think the only way to say this is that I have yet to see McInerney consistently set his own table. He finishes chances as well as anyone—three shots on goal, three goals. But we have yet to consistently see that creative flair that will make him a force to be reckoned with as a second striker.

Outlook

The immediate outlook for McInerney is that he will still likely have to fight for minutes in the forward rotation. Le Toux was a legitimate candidate for Most Valuable Player this past season with 14 goals and 11 assists and has proven that he is most effective from the top of the formation, not from the wing (see time spent with MLS Seattle Sounders). Mwanga was also a regular at forward by season’s end, having amassed 7 goals and 4 assists in a stellar rookie campaign. Those two will contend for many minutes in the forward positions and likely overshadow McInerney for the time being. The recent exit of Alejandro Moreno via the expansion draft does create more time up front temporarily, but I have a hard time believing that the Union will not look to fill a vacant role at the No. 2 or No. 3 forward option. Hopefully, the front office will look to bring in a player with a contrasting style and skill set to our existing options, and continue to provide Jack chances to play as a substitute.

All that said, McInerney’s playing time next year should increase. It was pretty clear by season’s end that Jack was most effective when given time to settle in. Playing far better as a 75th minute substitute than an 85th minute substitute, McInerney should see his playing time continue to increase and he will likely see extensive work with the reserves. While he needs time in the first team to build chemistry with other players, matches in the reserves should give him a chance to focus on building those final third passing skills and creativity that will serve him well as his game matures.

(Photo: Nicolae Stoian)

One Comment

  1. Add to the fact Jack Mac’s goal at the HDC – only the 2nd (?) given up by Ricketts to that point in the season – and the sky’s the limit with this kid. His future’s so bright, he’s gotta wear shades.

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