WAYNE, Pa. – Imagine being a teenager and referring to yourself as a veteran on a professional soccer team.
That’s exactly the situation for Union forward Jack McInerney, who despite entering his third MLS season is still just 19 years old.
“We have a young team,” McInerney said after Wednesday’s training session at YSC Sports in Wayne. “I’m 19 and I’m one of the veterans on the team, so it feels good. I have to use it for my advantage and help out with the young guys.”
McInerney has scored four career goals in 908 minutes with three of those coming during his rookie season in 2010.
Last season, he scored one goal but easily could have had more. Then, in the opening game of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Houston Dynamo, McInerney ripped a shot on goal only to see it clang off the crossbar.
McInerney played a full 90 minutes in the second leg at Houston.
From there, he kept himself busy during the offseason, first as part of a Generation adidas trip to the Netherlands, followed by three U.S. U-23 national team training camps in preparation for Olympic qualifying.
McInerney may only be 19, but he’s mature beyond those years.
Returning to the new-look Union for season No. 3 is an easier transition considering what he’s already been through both in MLS and beyond.
“I think it does help,” McInerney said. “Just stepping on the field, you know what to expect. If you’re a rookie, you might not know where to be all the time. Coach (Peter Nowak) is harder on the younger guys. I have to use my experience as an advantage.”
With the recent trade of Sebastien Le Toux, it's no secret that other players must step up to fill his void. That opportunity aligns with what McInerney is in search of – more playing time.
Second-year goalkeeper Zac MacMath, who was thrust into the starting role with the departure of Faryd Mondragón, is another young player who is being counted on to step up.
“Zac is my roommate and we talk a lot about everything,” McInerney said. “He came in and sat on the bench much of the whole first year and now he’s probably going to get a chance to start for the team. Hopefully, I’ll get the same opportunity. I have to keep working at it.”
McInerney will be competing with the likes of Danny Mwanga, Josué Martinez and rookie Chandler Hoffman for playing time. The Union have also been linked with Colombian striker Lionard Pajoy, although his potential signing has not been made official.
As for Martinez, who Union head of scouting Diego Gutierrez recently noted has the potential to be a star in MLS, McInerney had nothing but praise after several days of preseason training.
“From what I’ve seen, he’s quick and he’s good on the ball,” McInerney said. “He reads the game well. Hopefully, if we get some playing time together, we can combine well.”
McInerney is hoping to combine his MLS experience with his international experience for a breakout 2012 season with the Union.
“I think really my overall game is better,” McInerney said. “I’ve gotten some games with the Olympic team and I was playing 90 minutes a lot. I trained all offseason while guys were on vacation. I think I can use it as an advantage in the preseason and into the regular season. I’m excited for the season.”