Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By THOMAS FLOYD
CHESTER, Pa. — Jack McInerney can’t quite explain it. It’s still early in this 2013 campaign, but when the Philadelphia Union have found themselves in need of a goal, he’s been the man to provide it. Is it skill? Is it timing? Is it luck?
“I don’t know what it is,” McInerney said. “It just happened at the right time for me.”
For the second straight week, it was McInerney who provided the late heroics for the Philadelphia Union as they registered a 1-0 win Saturday over the New England Revolution at a cold, rainy PPL Park.
After scoring in the 79th minute of Philadelphia’s 1-0 triumph at Colorado last week, McInerney converted his own rebound off a corner kick in the 76th minute Saturday.
Timing, it would appear, is a strong suit of his.
“He’s always been a clutch player,” coach John Hackworth said. “But now, he’s doing it week in, week out in this league.”
It seemed fitting McInerney’s tally came amid a goalmouth scramble after Bobby Shuttleworth saved his initial header. It wasn’t a pretty goal, but it wasn’t a pretty game either.
As the Union shifted from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 in search of the full three points at home, they figured a long, sophisticated buildup probably wasn’t in the cards.
“With the weather, we knew it was going to be a battle, it was going to be one of those games that’s going to be 1-0,” McInerney said. “We held it down in the back and we got the ball into the box as much as possible, and one fell for us.
For the second straight game, McInerney started up top alongside Sebastien Le Toux, the former All-Star for Philadelphia who was brought back in an offseason trade with New York.
While both players, as well as Hackworth, said their rapport still needs plenty of work, Philadelphia’s recent winning ways have cultivated plenty of optimism around what the attacking duo is capable of going forward.
“It’s getting better and better,” Le Toux said of the partnership. “Maybe we still need support from the midfield because we feel maybe sometimes we’re a bit too much alone by ourselves in the attack. But he was good. We started to be closer to each other, tried to combine more.”
With goals in back-to-back games, McInerney is giving Union fans reason to believe his upward trajectory will only continue after his breakout eight-goal season last year.
But to Hackworth, McInerney’s success is most notably a crucial part of the big Union picture. In his fourth year, the 20-year-old is showing how patience with prospects can pay dividends long term.
If McInerney can maintain this form while the likes of Zac MacMath, Amobi Okugo and Michael Farfan offer similar returns, the Union’s future is bright indeed.
“We have young players and we’re stepping up, and Jack is certainly the epitome of that right now,” Hackworth said. “Those are the little progressions that I think these young guys have to make in their careers.”