With Casey and Le Toux in the fold, does Jack McInerney have fight on his hands?

McInerney prepared to battle yet again for top striker spot

McInerney and Saunders

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

In the past two weeks, the Philadelphia Union addressed a big need by acquiring a pair of veteran strikers in Sébastien Le Toux and Conor Casey.

But what does that mean for Jack McInerney, the team’s leading goalscorer in 2012 and one of the few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing season?

It means the 20-year-old forward has a lot to prove in the preseason if he hopes to keep his place on the field in 2013. And he knows it.

“Obviously I was a little disappointed when we got [a second new striker] because I’m not sure what to expect,” McInerney told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Tuesday. “But it just shows that I’m going to have to fight for my spot on the field.”

McInerney spent his first two-and-a-half seasons in MLS as a reserve player before finding his way to the top of Philly’s striker depth chart last year after a few forwards found new homes and poor production from others. He responded by scoring a team-leading eight goals in 1,630 minutes.

READ: MLS announces 2013 home openers for all 19 clubs

But remaining in the starting lineup may be difficult for McInerney, who believes Union manager John Hackworth will go with a 4-4-2 formation this season, thus negating the chance that he could start alongside Le Toux and Casey (right). And if he does come off the bench behind the two veterans, he’ll be pushed by Antoine Hoppenot, who scored four goals as the team’s top offensive sub last year.

Nevertheless, Hackworth didn’t flinch when asked about McInerney following the acquisition of Casey in Stage 2 of the Re-Entry Draft.

“We think he is the future,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “We think adding Conor and Sébastien is going to make Jack better.”

Even if their arrivals cut into his minutes, McInerney is certainly excited to play with both Casey and Le Toux. He said he doesn’t know Casey, except for the fact that “he’s one of those players you hate unless he’s on your team.”

But he is familiar with Le Toux and is eager to rekindle the on-field relationship the two shared as Philly teammates in 2010 and 2011.

Hackworth: Union didn't choose Casey to be "a role player"

“I think when he comes in, it will show that we played together before,” McInerney said. “We’ve done it before. We know what each other needs and wants, so it will make the transition easy.”

Indeed, while Le Toux paired mostly with Alejandro Moreno, Danny Mwanga and Carlos Ruiz during his original tenure in Philadelphia, he did get some experience starting a few games alongside McInerney. In one of those games, Le Toux assisted on McInerney’s only goal of the 2011 season with a beautiful give-and-go – which the Frenchman called a “great moment” in his re-introductory press conference at PPL Park two weeks ago.

“I’m very happy he had a great end of the season for the team and scored so many goals,” Le Toux said. “I’m looking forward to playing with him because he’s hungry to do well and do what the team needs to be successful.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.