CHESTER, Pa. – When Jack McInerney scored against the LA Galaxy for the first time, he was a 17-year-old rookie trying to adjust to life as a pro.
When he scored against the Galaxy a second time, he was a 19-year-old working his way into the starting lineup.
Now, as the league’s leading scorer, the Philadelphia Union striker hopes to repeat history and find the back of the net against the Galaxy again when Landon Donovan & Co. take on Philly on Wednesday night at PPL Park (7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
“Against some teams it just kind of falls that way,” McInerney told MLSsoccer.com following Tuesday’s training session. “It’s the same vs. New England. We’ll see [Wednesday] night if it keeps going.”
Wednesday’s game is especially exciting for McInerney, who took over the lead in the MLS Golden Boot race on Saturday in Chicago with his seventh goal of the season. Trailing him by one goal is the Galaxy’s Mike Magee, who McInerney is ready to welcome to PPL Park – as long as he doesn’t tie him for the Golden Boot lead.
“Obviously I hope he isn’t going to score,” McInerney said with a smile.
Taking the field opposite other offensive stars like Donovan and Robbie Keane will also be a good thing for McInerney. The Union striker doesn’t know those players personally, but wonders if they’ll say something to him now that he’s been garnering more national attention. Either way, McInerney looks up to both Donovan and Keane as two of the league’s premier offensive players – something he hopes to soon become himself.
“Keane, I think his off-the-ball movement is probably the best in the league and he’s someone I try to mimic my game off of,” McInerney said. “And obviously Donovan has played at the highest level for the national team. I think it’s a good chance for me to kind of just prove myself.”
John Hackworth agreed that Wednesday’s game presents a chance for McInerney to prove himself. But the Union manager was also quick to point out that the 20-year-old striker doesn’t need to press or try too hard to score since he’s proven he can impact games in other ways.
“I think for Jack, he’ll want to use this game as yet another opportunity to prove that he is playing at such a high level,” Hackworth said. “But I would hope – and I think this is very true of Jack – that he wants the team to be successful, so he’s going to do all the little things.
"We review a lot of video and one of the most important clips we showed this week is McInerney making a 70-yard run back to defend in the Chicago game," Hackworth continued. "For him, the opportunity to prove he’s still a good player and doing it against players like Landon Donovan is very important – but more collective on our end to try to make sure as team players we play the best we possibly can and get the result.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.