CHESTER, Pa. – Jack McInerney wants to win the MLS Golden Boot.
And the Philadelphia Union’s precocious 20-year-old striker wants to do it this year.
“It’s definitely in the back of my mind,” McInerney told MLSsoccer.com following the Union’s training session Tuesday. “That’s something I want to do.”
It’s still very early in the season of course, but it would be foolish not to at least include McInerney in the Golden Boot conversation.
Following his goal in the Union's 1-1 draw on the road against the Columbus Crew on Saturday, the fourth-year forward has now scored three times through the team’s first five games. That puts him tied for fourth in the league, two goals off the pace set by league leader, the LA Galaxy's Mike Magee and one behind Toronto FC's Robert Earnshaw and Sporting Kansas City's Claudio Bieler.
“Some guys will fall off and hopefully I’m not one of those,” McInerney said. “But if I keep putting myself in good spots, I’ll be there at the end.”
It appears McInerney will keep getting those chances to put himself in good spots.
After coming off the bench and playing just 20 minutes in the season opener, the 20-year-old has started the past four games, most recently playing a full 90 minutes in Columbus. And Union manager John Hackworth said that McInerney will likely remain a 90-minute player, even as he battles for time with more seasoned players like Sébastien Le Toux and Conor Casey.
But Hackworth also noted that while winning the Golden Boot is possible for McInerney because scoring goals “is what he does and what he does best,” there’s still plenty of room for the young striker to develop.
“I’ve said this many times before but Jack can be better,” the Union manager said. “He knows he could have scored a couple of goals vs. Columbus at a minimum. He knows he can improve and he knows what his strengths and weaknesses are. Putting the ball in the back of the net has to be something he does on a consistent basis.”
The confident McInerney believes he will continue to put the ball in the back of the net and said he’s enjoyed the extra national attention his early goals have gotten him.
His teammates have enjoyed it, too, teasing him by calling him "Chicharito" in practice because McInerney was recently dubbed the “American Chicharito” on MLSsoccer.com’s March to the Match podcast.
McInerney, though, downplayed the comparison, noting it’s a little different since Javier "Chicharito" Hernández plays for Manchester United.
So who does he play like?
“I play like Jack," he said with a smile.
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.