When Jack McInerney learned he wouldn’t be joining the United States U-20 national team for a tournament in his home state of Georgia, he was admittedly disappointed.
In the following few weeks, that feeling became his goal-scoring fuel.
Despite not being selected to participate the Torneo de las Americas in Atlanta last month, the Philadelphia Union striker traveled to Spain, where he played well on tour with the MLS Generation adidas squad.
Then, the 18-year-old forward got the U-20 call he was looking for, joining coach Thomas Rongen’s team for a training camp in Sunrise, Fla., last week that included two friendlies vs. Canada.
Because of the deep player pool, McInerney only played in one of those two games, but he certainly made the most of the opportunity, scoring a goal and helping create another in a 2-0 US win over their northern rivals on Dec. 17.
[inline_node:303441]“Of course you always have that little chip on your shoulder,” McInerney told MLSsoccer.com. “You need to prove yourself. It’s real competitive. Everyone is going out there and playing for a spot.”
McInerney didn’t even recognize some of his U-20 teammates, a few of whom were making their international debuts. But he did have at least one close friend in Florida with him: Philadelphia Union teammate Amobi Okugo.
In addition to joining McInerney for the Generation adidas tour and the second U-20 camp, the ever-active Okugo also played in the Torneo de las Americas. Both rising MLS stars are learning a lot from their busy offseason – and are also continuing to learn how to play with each other.
“Everywhere we go, we’re right there with each other,” McInerney said. “We have a good time playing with each other. We have a little connection on the field.”
Union fans can only hope that connection sticks around during the 2011 season. In their rookie campaigns, Okugo made 11 appearances and logged 437 minutes while McInerney scored three goals in just 350 minutes.
But with the Union building around their young core, both players will almost certainly be asked to do more starting in March.
“Hopefully I get on the field a lot,” McInerney said of his aspirations for the upcoming season. “And when I do, hopefully I’ll score some goals.”