When John Hackworth was named to replace Peter Nowak in June, roster changes immediately followed.
One of the biggest changes came up front with third-year striker Jack McInerney.
McInerney didn’t play much early in the season under Nowak and even struggled to make the gameday roster at times.
Enter Hackworth. And enter McInerney.
It’s been a solid move.
McInerney, the Union’s No. 7 overall pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, has proven his mettle with a team-best seven goals to go along with three assists. He has scored in three straight matches, joining Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Mwanga as the only players in franchise history to accomplish that feat.
McInerney will have a shot at increasing that streak to four during Saturday’s match at Houston.
Looking at the big picture, the 20-year-old forward has clearly proven the skills are there to warrant a major role next season.
“I hope so because coach (Hackworth) has shown a lot of trust and confidence in me,” McInerney said. “When he took over, he put me in the lineup and told me to just go play. He showed me that he had a lot of confidence in my ability. That made me feel great. It was tough in the beginning of the season not playing. I didn’t really know if I was going to get a chance. I had to just come in every day and work as hard as I could.
“To have coach (Hackworth) and the staff show that immediate confidence in me gave me a boost of confidence. I believe that. It means a lot, yet at the same time, I have to keep going out and proving myself. I think any player has to do that. But I do feel more confident knowing I’m going to play a lot.”
It hasn’t been all rosy.
McInerney recently went through a stretch of nine straight matches without a goal. But it wasn’t for a lack of chances. Sometimes, finishing can be the toughest aspect in soccer.
Remember, this is a player who is still 20 years old with a long career in front of him.
“You can’t get frustrated because you’re not going to finish every chance,” McInerney said. “What you have to do is finish the ones you’re supposed to. If you do that as a striker, the goals will come. I feel like there are some chances I should have finished, but I think every striker probably feels that way. I have to keep working to finish the ones I should. Getting this game experience definitely helps because you can see everything on film. That’s how you learn and get better.”
So far, Hackworth likes what he sees.
“In the games he’s played this year, he’s been really important on both sides of the ball,” Hackworth said. “To put it in context, he is a guy who is our first line of defense, he sets our pressure and he understands that role. He’s put himself in a great position going forward in the future with this club.”
And how about the seven goals?
“I think what you’re seeing right now is a goal-scorer's mentality,” Hackworth said.
McInerney’s play on the pitch is hardly surprising to his teammates. They see it every day in training.
“Jack is so skilled,” midfielder Michael Lahoud said. “When I first got to Philadelphia, I saw it right away. I was like, ‘This guy can play.’ He has all the tools to be a special player and a great goal scorer in this league for a long time.”
“He’s got great vision and a knack for scoring,” midfielder Brian Carroll added. “He’s always around the ball and that doesn’t happen without having a superior knowledge of the game.”
With three matches remaining, McInerney is determined to finish on a strong note and carry that momentum into next season.
“Honestly, the goals are great, but I like getting the three points each time out,” McInerney said. “You want to win in this league. Individual stats don’t mean much if you don’t have a good record. I’m happy to score, but it’s a better day if we come away with the three points.”
Can’t argue with that logic.
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org