CHESTER, Pa. – In the 77th minute of Saturday’s game against the Montreal Impact, Philadelphia Union defender Fabinho made a move down the left flank and placed a cross right at the edge of the 6-yard-box.
Jack McInerney, the Union’s leading scorer, ran toward the ball and jumped in the air to head it, with most of the net to shoot at.
“That header,” McInerney said, “I’ll finish nine times out of 10 with my eyes closed.”
But this was the one time he couldn’t do it, as the ball glanced off his forehead and drifted out of bounds.
The missed header not only proved critical as the Union failed to score in a 0-0 draw against 1st-place Montreal, but it was also a microcosm of what life has been like over the past three months for McInerney, who’s now gone 10 straight games without finding the back of the net.
“It’s one of those things where the team depends on me to score, and when I do get that one chance that they create for me, I have to do it,” he said. “And I didn’t do it tonight and I kind of let my team down.”
McInerney, who scored a whopping 10 goals during the first three months of the season en route to becoming an MLS All-Star and earning his first US national team call-up, had other chances to find the back of the net, too.
But a rebound attempt from McInerney midway through the first half hit the side netting and a 57th-minute blast was stopped by diving Montreal goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
“Once I hit it, I knew it was right at him,” McInerney said. “I knew he wasn’t going to be able to hold on it because it was moving too much. Unfortunately, it just didn’t fall in the right spot.”
McInerney – who didn’t start in last week’s 5-1 defeat to the New England Revolution for the first time since the season opener – said there’s no issue with his confidence and that he thought he played well in his return to the starting lineup Saturday.
But there’s still definitely something going on inside of his head.
“When you’re in a little bit of a slump, it’s just kind of a mind game,” McInerney said. “And right now, I’m kind of in between decisions of what I want to do and that’s what’s really stopping me.
“If there’s something I knew I could change, then I would have done it the first game I didn’t score.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.