Good news for Union fans – Jack McInerney is coming home.
Philadelphia's leading goal scorer will be available to play against Portland on Saturday after his first USA call-up caused him to miss the last four league games.
Jack didn't figure into Jurgen Klinsmann's Gold Cup plans this time around, but you can't devalue the experience gained from training and traveling with the national team.
After Tuesday night's 1-0 win for the USA in Hartford, Conn., philadelphiaunion.com caught up with national team assistant coach Martín Vásquez.
"Jack's been doing good," Vasquez said. "I think at his age, what he's been doing for Philadelphia, for his club, that's why he earned this call. He comes in, the first few days he was a little bit nervous, but that's normal. I think after that, he's been working hard and learning to play with international players, guys from Europe and Mexico and guys that are doing well in MLS. It's good for him to come in. He's got a lot of potential and he's got to keep going."
At 20 years old, McInerney was, by far, the youngest player called up to this national team squad. The average age of the USA's strike corps at the Gold Cup is 27.
"It's (about) experience, you know, we don't want to put any pressure on him," added Vasquez. "We want to make sure he's ready. If we throw him in right now and he doesn't have a good game, then it's not good for him. We noticed just a little bit of nerves, that maybe he wasn't quite ready just yet, especially when it comes to the other guys that we have in his position. But I think he really does have some tremendous potential."
McInerney got a chance to train with forwards like Herculez Gomez, Landon Donovan, Will Bruin, and Chris Wondolowski.
'Wondo', currently the Gold Cup's leading scorer, sees the upside in Jack's game.
"He's a very talented player," explained last year's Golden Boot winner. "His technique around the goal is amazing and he can finish with some of the best of them. (Breaking into the lineup) is definitely tough. You don't necessarily know what to expect and it's a bit of a jump, but I think that he's a smart player. He's definitely getting there, he's getting close."
"Everybody's been (working with Jack)", Vasquez was saying. "The one thing that a lot of guys notice, on their first call up, they come in, they realize that the speed of play is much faster and the spaces are smaller. But, day by day, they have to go out and learn and adjust to the way we want to play and to the intensity of our training sessions. Little by little he's done well and he's got to continue to keep going. Once he gets his opportunity, once we think he's ready, then he can take advantage."
McInerney admitted as much when he spoke with philadelphiaunion.com early in his national team stint.
"It's a lot faster," McInerney said via phone. "I am learning alot and really just trying to take it all in. This is a great experience for me and I am getting a chance to be apart of something big. It's good to know how everything works at this level so that you are alot more comfortable the next time it happens."
Many on the national team roster believe McInerney won't have to wait that long to get another chance. Players like midfielder Stuart Holden, who spent much of last season hanging around PPL Park while undergoing rehab from knee surgery feel Jack could be the future of the side.
“He’s a young player but a very talented player, that’s why he’s got 10 goals here in MLS," said Holden. "He’s very levelheaded, but he’s a competitor you can see it in training, you can see that he wants to learn. He might not be getting a lot of minutes [with the national team] right now, but I think that this experience on a whole will be invaluable for him going forward, and you could see him playing an integral role on the U.S. [men’s national team] in a couple of years.”
Even former defender Michael Orozco-Fiscal spoke highly of his former Union teammate. Orozco-Fiscal who noted his career has "matured" since his departure two seasons ago, also spoke of the maturity that a 20-year-old McInerney brought to his first foray into senior national team life.
Maturity that only bodes well going forward.
“He’s a really talented player. He always has been and it was good to see him get this experience. It doesn’t matter if you play; just having the opportunity to be here and work with some of the best players in the country it’s a great thing for him to experience. It was the same for me when I came here. He’s a really good player in MLS and he’s going to be a great player for his country in the future.”
Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel contributed to this report.
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at firstname.lastname@example.org