Union's McInerney becoming a rising star in MLS

ASSOCIATED PRESS Jack McInerney (right) is tied for lead in goals.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Jack McInerney (right) is tied for lead in goals.
Posted: June 21, 2013

DON'T LET the casual demeanor fool you, rising Union star Jack McInerney knows that now is a good time to be Jack McInerney.

The 20-year-old striker is tied for the MLS lead in goals (10), and leads the league in road goals (seven) and game-winning goals (five).

Recently he received his first MLS All-Star nomination, and if he continues his current pace, he's a lock to make the match on July 31 in Kansas City.

Now with the U.S. men's senior team finished with 2014 World Cup qualifying games until September, USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his staff will focus on putting together a 23-man roster for the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup starting in July across the United States.

McInerney is one of eight forwards on the preliminary roster, and with Klinsmann always looking for guys who can snap the back of a net, "JackMac" will get serious consideration for his first opportunity with the senior team.

"It feels like everything is kind of going my way," the reserved McInerney, who was the Union's second-ever draft pick in 2010, said after a training session on Wednesday. "The team is doing well, and that just brings more attention, kind of, to how I've been playing."

It's impossible to know for sure, but McInerney seems to be at that crossroads in a young career when things are starting to take off. If he sustains it, the pathway to a bright career comes into clear focus.

It has been a quick transition for a player who was lost his first two-plus seasons under former manager Peter Nowak.

"It feels good obviously," said McInerney, who has scored 18 of his career 22 goals since John Hackworth replaced Nowak last season. "But I also think there is a lot of pressure now to stay consistent and keep it going.

"People see that you are capable of something and they want more and more of it. You can always keep getting better. You have to stay consistent and keep proving what you are doing is not a fluke."

It's no fluke. McInerney was Parade magazine's 2009 High School Boys Player of the Year and a participant in the Generation adidas develop program. He was a member of the U.S. Under-17 residency program for 2 1/2 years had 11 goals and 11 assists in 15 matches.

He was picked seventh overall in the MLS SuperDraft.

McInerney has a talent for scoring, which makes him the soccer equivalent of lefthanded top-of-the-rotation MLB starter, a dominant NBA center or a championship-caliber NFL quarterback.

He is the prime type of commodity that teams across the globe are always looking for.

McInerney's progress will be watched closely over the next few seasons. His age could factor into things moving quicker - as long as he keeps producing.

McInerney isn't a highlight-reel scorer. He won't juke by three defenders into the penalty area for a strike. His scoring talent is more a product of his being able to read the game, react to what's about to happen and know how to get to the spot where he can create a scoring opportunity.

"I think that's fair," acknowledged McInerney, who added that he wants to show more of an ability to score from distance. "I would say most of my goals come from seeing things and knowing where to be at. I can see where people who don't watch the game regularly might not get excited, because most of my goals look fairly simple.

"But if really were that simple, I guess I'd ask why don't 20 other guys across the league have 10 goals right now."

A career ago, McInerney's Union teammate, Chris Albright, was at a similar stage when the game he had played growing up in Philadelphia became more serious.

"I think the obvious thing is that you have to guard against complacency," said Albright, who has played in MLS for more than a decade and was a member of the 2006 USA World Cup team. "But the main thing I think is that the quicker you understand that this is a career and no longer just games, the better off you are.

"You have a mindset change about how you come to work each day. You almost approach as if you are a guy working at the mill - put in a hard day's work for a day's pay.

"When you start having success, it's exciting. There are a lot of things thrown at you, and it can be tough to sort through all that stuff as a 20-year-old kid. There are things you need to soak up and things you just need to let go by you."

Albright says he likes McInerney's approach.

"He's sort of quiet," Albright said. "He's not a talker. He's not outwardly brash. I think those qualities lean to him having continued success."

McInerney acknowledged that things are moving a little quickly and that he doesn't know whether he is quite where he needs to be in sorting through it all.

But he sees what's starting to form in front of him and embraces the challenge of making them happen.

"Obviously, it's crossed my mind," McInerney said. "What comes along with what I'm doing now is a chance to create opportunities for bigger and better things.

"If the right thing comes along, I wouldn't hesitate to look at it. But right now, it's just about making things happen in this moment. It's just the beginning, and if I can be consistent and keep things going, those other opportunities will eventually come."

Dn Members Only : Ryan Arcidiacano's eventful summer.

Email: smallwj@philllynews.com

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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