Despite struggles, McInerney to remain up top for Union

Jack McInerney close up

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WAYNE, Pa. – Philadelphia Union striker Jack McInerney is certainly grateful to have gone from out of the rotation to starting center forward in Philly’s 4-3-3 formation ever since John Hackworth took over as manager in mid-June.

But is that right spot for him?

Both Hackworth and McInerney acknowledged that it might not be.

“We’ve been best as a team with our personnel playing with a 4-3-3,” Hackworth told MLSsoccer.com. “It might not suit Jack the best though. He might be better with a two-striker system, playing in a more traditional 4-4-2.

“But the impressive thing is he has continued to do the job and I have no problem with him week in and week out. All of us would love to see him score more goals, but he’s played that role better than anyone on our team.”

GOAL: McInerney completes comeback

McInerney has scored four goals and added two assists since becoming a full-time starter, but hasn’t found the back of the net since July 29, when his stoppage-time game-winner sunk New England.

That goal also happened to be the last time an attacking player scored for the Union, who are in the midst of a three-goals-in-six-games drought. They are idle this weekend before returning to action next Saturday at Toronto FC.

“I think we’re just going through a rough patch right now,” McInerney said. “But even when we weren’t in a rough patch, I still don’t think we took enough shots from distance to bring out the defense.”

Hackworth said he might be open to tinkering with the formation for the final nine games of the season. But, at least for now, McInerney will likely remain as a center forward with two wingers – typically Freddy Adu and Danny Cruz – flanking him and center attacking mid Michael Farfan playing behind him.

“It’s not my favorite,” McInerney admitted. “I’d rather have another forward out there with me to combine with, someone who can work off me. But I’m fine with it.”

McInerney has still worked hard to fit into that role and believes he’s been able to get into good spots, even if the final pass and the finishing hasn’t always been there. And he also relishes being viewed as the team’s No. 1 goal-scoring threat by his coaches, especially considering he didn’t play a single minute back in May.

“It makes me feel good,” the third-year striker said. “It makes me come out here and work hard and put in the work every day. It’s also a good amount of pressure. But for [Hackworth] to come out and say that shows he has confidence in me.”

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