Prophesy fufilled: Philadelphia Union's Jack McInerney eyes Golden Boot after preordained brace

WASHINGTON – Shortly before the Union took the field on Sunday, Chris Albright struck up a conversation with Philadelphia Union teammate Jack McInerney in an RFK Stadium bathroom.

“I’ve been waiting for you to score two goals,” McInerney remembered Albright telling him. “Today’s got to be the day on ESPN2.”

Today was indeed the day.

With a national TV audience looking on, McInerney delivered his first brace of the season to lift the Union to a 3-2 victory against rivals D.C. United.

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Even more impressive, the 20-year-old rising star now leads the MLS Golden Boot Race with six goals, passing the LA Galaxy’s Mike Magee and Toronto FC’s Robert Earnshaw for sole possession of first place.

“It’s definitely in the back of my mind,” McInerney told MLSsoccer.com of winning the Budweiser Golden Boot. “I know I’m not going to continue at this pace the whole year, so I told everyone not to get too excited. But it feels good. And the goals will keep coming if we’re still winning.”

McInerney’s first goal of the game came in the seventh minute after Brian Carroll slid to break up a D.C. attack and Conor Casey played a perfect through ball ahead to his partner up top. McInerney then slowed the ball up but still managed to split a pair of D.C. United defenders before blasting a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Bill Hamid.

For Union manager John Hackworth, that play showed what the team’s coaches and players already know: that McInerney is much more well-rounded than his reputation as a poacher might indicate.

“Probably the most impressive thing is he slowed the ball up and cut the ball back,” Hackworth said. “On the bench, we were saying, ‘Why is he slowing it up?’ It looked like he had a step on them. But Jack is capable of those kind of goals. I know everyone says he’s a tap-in player but he has a big arsenal in his bag. He can certainly hurt you from distance and hurt you in different ways and he showed that today.”

After Casey and D.C. United’s Perry Kitchen traded goals, McInerney put the Union up 3-1 in the 26th minute when he slotted home another left-footed shot after getting on the receiving end of a Sheanon Williams’ long throw-in.

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The goal would prove to be enough to send the Union to their first-ever win at RFK Stadium.

“If you would have told me, I would have had two left-footed goals, I would have called you a liar,” said McInerney, who is a righty. “It just comes along with where my confidence is at right now.”

And where is that?

“It’s as high as it can be,” he said. “We’re winning and I’m scoring, so it can’t get much better.”

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