CHESTER, Pa. -- Jack McInerney is leading the MLS in goals, was named the MLS Player of the Week and is pacing the Union to victory.
Now comes the national attention.
“I’ve gotten more text messages and tweets than I’ve ever gotten,” said McInerney, who is coming off a two-goal effort against DC United last Sunday. "It’s been a little bit different, but I won’t say I don’t like it. As long as I’m playing well, I’m happy.”
And so are the Union. At 20-years-old, McInerney is in his fourth year with the club that drafted him fifth overall in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. And after leading the Union in goals last season with eight in 25 games, McInerney now has six goals in seven games and is the point-man of the Union offense, helping his club to an early 3-2-2 record.
This success, mixed with his flair for the clutch late-game goal, has some calling him the “American Chicharito” or “Jackharito.” But whatever nickname he is handed, McInerney can be called confident.
“I don’t think there’s a ceiling for confidence,” he said, preparing for the New England Revolution on Saturday. “Lately, it’s all been good for me. But I still need to keep my head down and keep playing every week. Next week could be the exact opposite. It gets higher and higher every single day and as long as we’re playing well and winning games, it’s good for the team.”
With his early-season success, the national media has heaped praise on the young star, even demanding McInerney receive attention from the US Men’s National Team. But with attention comes expectation, which has caused coach John Hackworth to try and keep McInerney from buckling under the pressure.
“I think Jack is going to handle it fine,” said the coach. “It has a lot to do with the people around him. We spoke briefly about it yesterday -- don’t change anything, don’t change the way you’re thinking. I said, don’t read it if the media writes something good about you and don’t ever read it if they write something bad about you. You have to do your job every day to the best of your ability, and those highs and lows will come as a professional athlete, especially under the spotlight.”
Though McInerney showed flashes of his current brilliance in 2012, consistency was a lingering issue. Helping solve this problem has been veteran striker Conor Casey, who is second on the Union with two goals. Though the Union may have expected Sebastien Le Toux to help McInerney reach new heights, it has been Casey that has clicked with the young striker.
“They are playing very well and there is no sense in disrupting something that is working so effectively,” Hackworth said of the Casey-McInerney combination “Obviously Jack is getting a lot of the credit and it’s well deserved for sure, but Conor is doing a great amount of quality things as a target forward. Our whole team is playing in a way that allows us to be effective.”
And even with the two-forward combination working, McInerney still believes the best is yet to come.
“It’s helped a lot,” said McInerney of playing with Casey. “We’re still working on things, we’re still trying to connect in the midfield a little better but we’re both scoring goals and in pretty good form right now. If we can keep this going, we’ll be pretty good. We’ve been working in practice together, it’s a good partnership.”