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Raves: Jack McInerney

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Editor’s note: At the end of each of the last two seasons, we posted a series of “Raves” about our favorite Philadelphia players. They need not be the team’s best players, but they’re guys and gals we like. Over the next two weeks, we continue the series with some of PSP writers’ and contributors’ favorite Philadelphia players of 2012.

From the beginning of the young history of the Philadelphia Union, we have all delighted in the team’s young players.

And in the beginning, none was younger than Jack McInerney.

He was impossible not to love: young, handsome, that adorable shag haircut. The Union said they were building for the long term and what better evidence did you need than a US youth international like Jack Mac to believe them?

Soon enough, he was proving it on the pitch.

When Jack McInerney scored his first professional in a road game against LA Galaxy on May 1, 2010, it was only his fourth appearance after being drafted by the Philadelphia Union at the 2010 SuperDraft and he was still three months shy of his 18th birthday. He closed out his first season with two more goals, a strike rate of a goal about every 117 minutes over 350 minutes of play.

By his second season, the shag was gone, replaced by a buzz cut that underscored an already existing toughness. While he battled for minutes in a pool of forwards that at the start of the season included Carlos Ruiz, Danny Mwanga and Sebastien Le Toux, he also had to suffer the positional whims of Peter Nowak. But he did the best he could with the cards he was given and ended up with one goal on the season.

And then came 2012.

Over the first 11 games of the season, Nowak chose not to start McInerney in a single game. In fact, he had only five appearances for a total of 93 minutes of game time over the first seven games. After that, McInerney didn’t see a minute of play over the last four games of Nowak’s tenure and by the end he wasn’t even making the game day roster.

If you were happy when Nowak was finally canned, just imagine how happy Jack was.

When John Hackworth took over, he started McInerney in his first game as interim coach. The message from the coaching staff was clear: the team was returning to first principles.

It soon became clear that McInereny had a message of his own: Believe in me because I score goals.

Since that first start, McInerney has repaid Hackworth’s faith by becoming the team’s leading goalscorer with seven goals, all from open play. He’s also second on the team in assists.

The scoring began in his second start with a goal in the first minute in the 4–0 win against Sporting Kansas City, a game in which he added his second goal of the season just before the end of the first half. Two games later, he opened the scoring again in the dramatic road win over Los Angeles with a lovely backheel stunner in first half stoppage time.

McInerney’s flair for the dramatic has continued: the stoppage time winner against New England that saw him leap into the welcoming arms of the River End, surely one of the greatest moments ever at PPL Park; the 86th minute equalizer against Columbus that was cruelly overshadowed by a clearly offside winner a minute later from the Crew; the opening goal in the 3–1 shock win in Chicago in front of a crowd that included Peter Nowak, on hand to be honored at halftime as part of the Fire’s 15th anniversary celebrations (how sweet that must have been); another late winner against New England.

With his recent game winner against New England McInerney became only the third Union player to score in three consecutive games. Oh, and he’s currently ranked 14th in the league in the Castrol Index.

Not bad for a guy who was watching his team play from the stands only a few short months ago.

Yes, there has also been frustration.

After the game winner against New England in July, McInerney went nine games without a goal. During that time he was out of the starting XI four times. Two of those times he didn’t play at all.

But his frustration was our frustration. Over that long goalless stretch, the Union had only one win. In 2013, when McInerney scores, the Union win (hapless officiating aside).

He has been outspoken that he needs help up top, that he can’t do it alone and, at times, his frustration was clearly evident in his body language on the field.

But he still did the work. He still made the runs. He still tracked back, whether to find the ball or to defend.

And when he was sat, he acknowledged it was because he wasn’t doing his job, he wasn’t scoring goals.

So, when the Union traveled to Columbus and he didn’t start for the second consecutive game, he took the minutes he was given as a sub to show that he ought to be starting by scoring the equalizer.

In the beginning, McInerney was a symbol of the Union’s philosophy of building through youth. Languishing on the sidelines less than three years later, he had become a symbol of just how far Peter Nowak had strayed from that ideal. Since then, he has become the player who has turned a season of singular disappointment into one of hope for next year.

All of that and he’s still too young to buy a beer.

 

 

4 Comments

  1. *stands and applauds*

  2. Yeah, Jack has convinced me. He’s a striker. Well done.

  3. Richie The Limey says:

    I heart Union Jack.

  4. Its such as you read my mind! You appear to know a lot approximately this, like you wrote the guide in it or something.

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