In 2013, Philadelphia Union striker Jack McInerney scored as many goals as he did in his first three years in the league combined.
Five of his 12 goals were game-winners – which was tied for third in MLS – and seven were scored beyond the 75th minute.
He made his first MLS All-Star Game and was called up to the US senior national team for the first time.
And he did it all in a year in which he turned only 21.
So how does the young Union striker feel about his breakout season now that it’s over?
“It seems like I should be happy,” McInerney told MLSsoccer.com. “But I think I could have done better. I think I could have scored more. And we’re disappointed we didn’t make the playoffs. So for me, it wasn’t good enough.”
Coming into the year, McInerney and the Union coaches certainly would have signed up for a 12-goal season. But things began to change, of course, when McInerney poured in an astounding 10 goals by June 1, putting him into the Golden Boot lead.
Then came the national attention, the Gold Cup call-up, the All-Star Game appearance … and an epic four-month scoring drought back in Philly.
“I think the traveling and having everything on my mind played a little bit of a role,” McInerney admitted. “But at the end of the day, it shouldn’t have changed anything and it’s not really an excuse. I just came back and it was a bad mixture of missing a couple of chances and not as much service. It is what it is. I just have to make sure it doesn’t happen next time.”
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Over the final two months of the season, the slumping McInerney began to see less time on the field. But he still managed to score two big October goals in games he came on as a late sub, which he called a “good confidence-builder going into the offseason.”
As for next season, he said he’ll aim to score around 20 goals – a high bar “just to make it hard on myself” – and begin to establish himself as one of the league’s best players, which he called “one of my goals in the long-term.”
But he knows the only way to get there is to avoid seasons like this one that are defined by hot streaks and cold streaks.
“It was kind of a roller coaster ride,” McInerney said. “The plan going into next year is to just steady it out and be consistent.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.