PORTLAND, Ore. – With this assembled US national team cruising through two straight games and putting the result out of reach by the hour mark in each match, that would seem like the perfect time to give Philadelphia Union wunderkind Jack McInerney his long-awaited first cap, right?
Not so fast, says Jurgen Klinsmann.
“For a player like Jack right now, it’s a tremendous learning curve,” the US boss said of the 20-year-old forward after the US’ 6-1 victory over Belize on Tuesday night in their CONCACAF Gold Cup opener. “You train every day with these guys and see, ‘OK, this is my club level and this is the national team.’”
McInerney has dazzled MLS fans with 10 goals in his first 14 games for Philadelphia this season and has shown he is growing into the star potential the Union saw in him when they selected him with the No. 7 pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft.
The Atlanta-raised striker has also been effective at the youth international level, especially in the 2009 U-17 World Cup, where he scored two goals for the US in Nigeria.
But fans waiting to see him get his big moment in the sun for the senior team may have to wait a little longer. McInerney didn’t make the game-day squad in last week’s warm-up vs. Guatemala. He was in the 18 vs. Belize, but didn’t see the field despite the USMNT running up the score on the Central American minnows.
“Gold Cup is a bit tricky because we can only sub three guys,” Klinsmann said. “It would have been easier maybe [with] two or three preparation games, then you throw him in there to get a couple of minutes in, it’s no problem. But now the rules are only having three [substitutions] and you want to make sure you have the right ones based on what you see in training. He’s on a good path.”
With that, Klinsmann suggested the young phenom might have more to prove on the training pitch before he sees actual minutes. But the US boss is still pleased with McInerney’s progress and hinted the first cap could come soon.
“He’s coming along,” Klinsmann added. “We’re very, very happy with him. We see him, we see his talent and he’s getting more confident every time he’s getting on the practice field.”
Jonah Freedman is the managing editor of MLSsoccer.com.