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Even-handed Hackworth says McInerney has room to grow

CHESTER, Pa. – Over the weekend, Jack McInerney accomplished what no other Philadelphia Union player had ever done before him by scoring a goal in his fourth consecutive match.

John Hackworth was thrilled to witness that accomplishment, making sure to congratulate the third-year striker during his weekly press conference.

But the Union manager also wants to see more from McInerney, who’s netted a team-leading eight goals this year.

“For me, I’m always going to be a little bit critical of guys in terms of areas to improve,” Hackworth said. “Jack played well the other night, there’s no question. But I still think he can get better. His reactions to certain moments have to be immediate. And some of his gesturing to teammates, to referees, to opponents, it’s not even worth doing.”

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If maturity is the issue, the Union thankfully have plenty of time. No one in the league who was born after the 20-year-old McInerney has scored more than two goals this season. And the average age of the players who’ve scored eight goals or more is 28, making McInerney the pup of the veteran goal-scoring group.

And yet the third-year player has shown a knack for finding the back of the net ever since Hackworth made him a regular starter in June, culminating in his four-goals-in-four-games streak.

“It’s exciting for him and hopefully he can keep the streak going as long as possible,” Union midfielder Michael Farfan said. “It benefits us as well. Him scoring only helps the team.”

Indeed, having a red-hot striker has made things easier for the Union over the past few weeks and should help them again on Wednesday when they enter the tough confines of Livestrong Sporting Park for a game against first-place Sporting Kansas City (8:30 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).

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“It’s the hardest thing to do in the sport and the fact that we have a guy scoring on a regular basis takes a lot of pressure off us,” Hackworth said.

And the manager believes the goals will continue to come off the feet and head of McInerney next season.

More of them, even.

“He’s a young player still,” Hackworth said. “He’s doing a lot of great things out there but he’s still young and still has a lot more to learn in this game.

“I don’t think we’ve come close to seeing the best of Jack McInerney yet.”

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