Union's McInerney finally getting a chance to play

Posted: June 22, 2012

Jack McInerney sat high in the stands of six different stadiums for six straight games wearing street clothes. Various injured teammates sometimes joined the healthy McInerney high above the fields where the Union were playing. The scenery changed but the situation stayed the same.

Six games. Two wins. Zero minutes of playing time for McInerney.

But things have changed at PPL Park in Chester, and as the ninth-place Union shuffle coaches and lineups, McInerney could be tapped to provide a spark for the offensively challenged club.

The 19-year-old McInerney was not happy to be sitting.

"For those six games, I was questioning myself," he said. "Maybe it was time for a change. [Then-manager Peter Nowak] didn't talk to the players much, so I didn't really know what was going on and why I wasn't playing. But I stuck with it and got a good opportunity last week."

That's when Nowak, the only manager in the Union's two-year history, was shown the door. Nowak's longtime assistant, John Hackworth, was named interim manager.

Hackworth admitted he didn't get too much sleep during his first week on the job. There's a lot of work to do for a team that is 2-8-2 in Major League Soccer.

"I enjoy the work," Hackworth said. "The days have been long, but they've been fun. Anytime you make a change like this, there is a lot of work to be done. But it's work that you want to do."

Hackworth has the reins on a team with six capable strikers, but no clear standout. One of his biggest decisions will be deciding which of those guys sees the most minutes.

Last Saturday, against first-place D.C. United, Hackworth called on McInerney for 74 minutes of play. The result was a 1-0 loss, but there encouraging signs in the way the team performed.

The Union had 15 shots on net compared with United's seven. They had more corners, more open-play crosses, and more possessions. The Union won every stat kept, except the only one that matters.

"After the game, I spoke with some of the D.C. players that I coached before and they were like, 'Wow, I don't know how we won that game,' " Hackworth said. "They found a way to win and that's what we have to start doing."

It's been a season of snakebitten forwards and missed opportunities for the Union, and the road doesn't get any easier. The Union play second-place Sporting Kansas City and their stingy defense Saturday night at PPL Park.

Sporting have allowed only 10 goals in 13 games. The Union have scored only eight goals in 12 games.

Hackworth has to decide what to do up front now that Lionard Pajoy, a three-goal scorer this season, is eligible after serving a one-game suspension. McInerney is one option, and so are five other players.

The Union selected McInerney seventh overall in the MLS draft in 2010. There were no guarantees of playing time or even a spot on the 18-man active roster. However, he was told that then-assistant Hackworth played a big part in the Union's drafting him.

Two years later, both are in new positions. And now Hackworth has to decide whether to stick with the player he brought to the Union or look in a new direction for offensive production.

"I don't think we're going to have any one individual with a bunch of goals," Hackworth said. "But I think you'll see a few guys with five, six, seven goals."


Contact Chad Graff at cgraff@philly.com. Follow on Twitter @ChadGraff.

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