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Danny Cruz, left, and Jose Kleberson, right, celebrate with Jack McInerney after his game-tying goal in the 90th minute. (USA Today Images)
Jack McInerney picked the perfect time to erase his 14-game scoring drought.
In stoppage time and with his team trailing, the 21-year-old confidently headed a Kleberson cross that slipped past Bill Hamid and in, pulling the Union to a crucial 1-1 draw with DC United on Saturday night at RFK Stadium.
“It’s just a lot of relief, and, not stress, but it feels like a lot of frustration just lifted off my shoulders,” said McInerney, who received a yellow card for excessive celebration.
While the impressive score salvaged a result point for the Union, it broke over four months of frustration for McInerney, whose last goal was on June 1. He regained the Union scoring lead with 11 goals on the season. Conor Casey has 10.
“It’s been tough, and the longer it goes the more frustrating it gets,” McInerney said. “But like I said, you just got to keep fighting and pushing. I’ve proven that I can score. I just got to keep my head up and keep going and hopefully -- got this one so hopefully they’ll come now.”
Trailing for most of the contest, Union manager John Hackworth opted for Antoine Hoppenot, not McInerney, to replace Keon Daniel at half and add an injection of offense. Eventually entering the game in the 73rd minute, the Union’s beleaguered scorer didn’t have much time to make a difference.
“It’s a tough decision because you want to give Jack as much time as possible,” Hackworth said. “But we had taken over control of the game at that point and had been creating some chances and dictating possession. You make a change right there and you’re kind of going for it. You leave yourself very vulnerable to the counter-attack, but we had no choice at that point. You’re down a goal, you’re on the road -- you have to. Again, credit to our back line and some good luck there as well, and then we just kept on pushing for the equalizer and we got it.”
But when McInerney did get the opportunity, he knew exactly what to do.
“[Kleberson] had put in a couple good balls before so I just kind of backed out and tried to find some space,” McInerney said. “I saw Amobi [Okugo] going up and I just told him to leave it, and he did. I just got my head onto it and put it into the net.”
With just four goals in their last eight games, McInerney’s resurgence couldn’t come at a better time for the Union, who, with two games remaining, are in an entrenched battle for an Eastern Conference playoff position and are not hitting on all cylinders.
“You saw how deadly he was in the beginning of the season scoring 10 goals in however many games that was,” Hoppenot said. “If he catches fire again, it’s going to be a very dangerous team with Conor up top. Today, Conor was dangerous getting a lot of head balls. I think we’re a dangerous team if we we’re able to find another guy who can put the ball in the back of the net.”
Quotes courtesy of the Philadelphia Union.