CHESTER, Pa. – This was not the send-off Jack McInerney wanted.
On Saturday, McInerney went scoreless as the Philadelphia Union allowed a 97th-minute goal in a 2-2 draw with FC Dallas at PPL Park.
Two days after the game, the 20-year-old striker flew to San Diego to join his US national team for Gold Cup preparations. He’ll miss at least the next three Union’s contests, starting with Wednesday’s tilt with Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium (10 pm ET, watch on MLS Live), and could miss as many as five depending on how far the US advance.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” McInerney said from the locker room Saturday. “I didn’t want to end it on a game like this obviously. But the team has plenty of capability to go and get results while I’m gone.”
Despite being one of the Golden Boot leaders with 10 goals, McInerney hasn’t scored in his last three games.
Still, the young striker says that mini-drought will not faze him as he prepares to possibly make his first appearance with the US senior national team.
“Going into camp, it’s not really anything I’ve thought about,” he said. “Obviously I would have liked to score. But the team got two wins and a draw, so it’s what’s best for the team.”
McInerney certainly cares about the Golden Boot and said that he hopes he’s “still in the running” when he returns from national team duty. But in the meantime, he’s naturally thrilled to take his goal-scoring abilities to the international level.
His Union teammates are thrilled, too.
“It’s awesome, right?” said striker Antoine Hoppenot, who could replace McInerney in the starting lineup. “A young guy like him, he’s deserved it. He’s been incredible. He’s been unbelievable scoring goals this entire year. I wish him all the best. Hopefully he gets in and scores a couple of goals.”
Other Union players also said they’ll make sure to watch the Gold Cup – and root for McInerney – even as they prepare for a grueling month without their top scorer.
“I’m hoping for little brother Jack to get in,” right back Sheanon Williams said. “What he’s doing this year is phenomenal. We saw flashes of it at the end of last year. We hope he gets his chance and buries it.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.