MLS co-leading scorer Jack McInerney has emerged as the league's next big star on the heels of his goal exploits during the first half of the 2013 campaign, but US national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann is already managing expectations ahead of the 20-year-old's first-ever senior national team call-up for the Gold Cup.
"There’s no pressure on him at all," Klinsmann said during a media conference call on Thursday. "There’s just a learning curve ahead of him and in partnership with his club to make sure we keep him with both feet on the ground and just every time developing him.
"You see obviously the talent he has and [we want to] make him feel comfortable and confident in this group. And I think this is a great group of guys that will make it easy for him to feel comfortable."
McInerney was a fixture in the USA's youth national team programs with the Under-15 team and the Under-17 team, which he led into the 2009 FIFA World Cup.
But it's been a slow rise for the young striker since joining the Philadelphia Union straight from US Residency Camp in 2009. After two seasons of limited duty and an occasional US Olympic team camp, McInerney broke out late in 2012 after John Hackworth took over for Peter Nowak and installed McInerney as a regular starter. The Tennessee native rewarded the faith with four goals in his final six games of 2012.
“It means a lot for me. This is something that I’ve always wanted," McInerney said in a statement. "I always grew up watching the men’s national team play and wanted to be there one day. It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I think it will once I get there, but right now in the moment, it feels good.”
And this year, McInerney has raised the bar even higher, finding himself tied for the league lead in goals with 10 tallies in 15 starts. It has earned him a month-long stay with the USA for the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
"We are following him and are excited about the progress he’s making and I had a long talk with his coach and we see there’s a lot of talent coming through," Klinsmann said. "He’s a hungry kid and he’s hungry for goals. He can score goals in many, many different ways. He’s providing assists and he’s there for his team. He’s chasing people down and he’s highly energetic.
"So we just want to open the door now, have him become part of our group and we would like to see him on a daily basis in training and possibly in the games as well. And therefore this is a first step for him into the senior program.”
Said McInerney: “I think it will be a good experience for me. Obviously, it will be tough; I haven’t been in this situation before and it will take some adjusting, but like I said, I’m excited, and I’m ready to go in there and try to compete for a spot.”