CHESTER, Pa. – Jack McInerney has a new lease on life.
After being absolutely buried on the depth chart by ex-manager Peter Nowak over the last two months, the Philadelphia Union striker was given the opportunity to start in interim manager John Hackworth’s first game in charge this past Saturday.
It marked the first start of the season for McInerney, the seventh overall pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft and one of just three remaining franchise originals.
“I saw in [Hackworth’s first] press conference that he said he was going to start changing some faces in the lineup,” McInerney said. “Obviously I was hoping I would be one of those faces. It felt good. It’s a confidence-booster.”
If anyone needed a boost of confidence, it was McInerney, who had been glued to the bench during Nowak’s final few games. Actually, the third-year striker wasn’t even on the bench, failing to make the 18-man gameday roster for six straight contests, including a pair of US Open Cup fixtures.
Worse, the 19-year-old forward had no idea why he wasn’t at least getting the opportunity to come in as a late-game sub as he had for much of his first two seasons in Philly, when he scored four goals in less than 1,000 minutes.
“He didn’t tell us how we were playing or what we should do,” McInerney said of Nowak. “So I didn’t know much.”
As soon as Nowak was replaced last week, the communications lines opened again, with Hackworth informing McInerney he would begin to play more.
When he heard that, the young striker felt a mixture of relief and gratitude – far different feelings than what he had experienced over the past few months.
“It was frustrating,” McInerney said. “I went through a time where I wasn’t [Nowak’s] top choice. It was his decision but Hack’s the new head coach and I’m thankful for that.”
Whether or not McInerney did enough to remain in the starting lineup remains to be seen. While creating a couple of dangerous scoring chances and helping to fuel an efficient attack, the 19-year-old failed to find the back of the net in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat.
Plus, Lionard Pajoy – who’s been the team’s No. 1 striker throughout the season – will return for Saturday’s game against Sporting Kansas City at PPL Park after serving a one-game suspension.
“It’s hard to say because Lio’s going to come back and Jorge [Perlaza], once he gets fit into the team, things will change,” McInerney said. “We have a deep squad, so we’ll see what happens.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org