CHESTER, Pa. – Midway through the second half of the Philadelphia Union’s home opener on Saturday, two second-year players shed their warm-up suits and began jogging along the sidelines.
Moments later, when those two players came into the game, Union fans likely had the same thought:
Such is the reputation Roger Torres and Jack McInerney carry with them after promising rookie campaigns.
“Roger is definitely a little playmaker and I’m pretty good at finishing,” McInerney told MLSsoccer.com. “So that combination coming on late doesn’t help the other defense.”
On Saturday neither Torres nor McInerney had a direct influence on the only goal in the club’s 1-0 win over Vancouver. But when they came into the game – replacing defender Jordan Harvey and midfielder Kyle Nakazawa – the Union immediately enjoyed more of an offensive presence.
The two joined strikers Carlos Ruiz, Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Mwanga to create a dangerous five-man unit in the attacking third against the undermanned Whitecaps, who were playing with 10 men.
“Roger is very good on ball and has very good vision,” Mwanga said. “And Jack runs and tries to get space. It gives the defense a challenge trying to mark all five of us at the same time. It’s very helpful. They came in and did a very good job and we got a goal.”
As rookies in 2010, both Torres and McInerney showcased their talent and potential in relatively limited roles.
The 19-year-old Torres is among Philly’s most creative players and finished third on the club with six assists, including the first one in team history.
McInerney, who turns 19 in August, played sparingly but was the team’s most efficient goalscorer, logging one goal every 116 minutes. The first of his three tallies last season came against the Galaxy at the Home Depot Center, where the Union will play this weekend.
“I definitely like it,” McInerney said of his reserve role. “It’s tough sitting and watching for 60 minutes in the cold and then you’ve got to come in and run around. But it’s a benefit too because you’re fresh.
“Being a forward, you just want to score goals. Coming on at the end when you know you’re tied 0-0, you’ve just got to keep pushing and you’ve got to take a lot of shots and put them under pressure.”
In some ways, McInerney wishes he could show off that goalscoring prowess, alongside Philly teammates Amobi Okugo and Zac MacMath, with the US U-20s over the next two weeks in the CONCACAF U-20 Championship.
But despite being capped on the team before, McInerney did not get called up for this tournament. The second-year player admitted the snub upset him at first but as far as fallback options going, trying to make a major impact for the Union is a pretty good one.
“I’m not missing out on too much,” he said.