For the first time since its inception in 2008, the Philadelphia Union, widely considered the city’s “other” sports team, has gotten a player onto the U.S. Men’s National Team. While it may sound like a good thing, the question remains: will this have an effect on the Union’s playoff chances?
Jack McInerney, the 20-year-old forward who is third in the MLS with 10 goals, just one behind the two first place leaders, has been a member of the U.S. team before but never at its top level. McInerney was actually drafted by the Union as part of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft from the U.S. U-20 team. He was the team’s seventh pick and was just 18 at the time.
McInerney struggled to get playing time in his first two seasons but still managed to score four goals in only seven games, impressive numbers for a teenager. In his first full season, in 2011-12, McInerney really broke out, continuing to develop as a likely future star for the Union. He played in 18 games and scored eight goals on 19 shots on goal. He also set the Union’s franchise record for scoring in four consecutive games.
Again, the still just 20-year-old emerging MLS star is having another phenomenal season. And with 10 goals in his first 14 games, Jurgen Klinsmann, head coach of the USMNT, has noticed. For the first time in his career, McInerney has made the roster for the U.S. team’s Gold Cup roster.
Luckily enough for the Union, McInerney’s absence is actually coming at a pretty good time.
While the standings are tight with Philadelphia currently sitting fourth in the Eastern Conference, with just three points separating them and the New England Revolution from the final playoff spot, the five-ish games McInerney will miss shouldn’t be make or break for the Union.
The stretch begins with a contest against Chivas USA, a team the Union has never in this history lost against (3-0-2). Once again, the Union will face Chivas while they sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Also in the July schedule includes what could be tough matches against the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps, but the Union should be able to work around McInerney’s absence here as well.
It is in August and September, where the season will really heat up and the playoff seeding be decided for the Union. And luckily for the team, McInerney will be available for all of those games as the championship match in the Gold Cup is scheduled to play July 28 while Philadelphia’s first August match is on the third of the month.
While McInerney’s absence does have Philadelphia needing to make some moves, the team does have options. Plus, even if the Union did struggle without their star, there are plenty of games remaining for him to make a difference when he returns.
Most importantly is the fact that McInerney, while he has yet to earn his first cap by playing in his first USMNT international game, does help the team with his offensive ability. The youth and inexperience could be a concern but once the Union’s Jack first hits the pitch, he will prove to be an asset.
And with a win in the Gold Cup, Team USA will benefit immensely as well.
It is no surprise that soccer is undervalued in this country but it is something that many want to see changed. The wake-up call may have been the 2012 Summer Olympics, which saw the U.S. Men’s Team not qualify for the games. And for a country that is probably under the assumption that U.S. athletes don’t have to qualify but rather get in automatically since that always seems the case, not seeing the team represented, even if it was “just soccer” could prove to be a huge difference maker.
Winning another Gold Cup would be huge for the U.S. and as a result would be huge for McInerney and the Union as well. The young star will get great experience no doubt but more than that, soccer might just be headed back to relevancy in the U.S.
And that is something the Union, who are said to have some of the more passionate soccer fans in the country, can certainly appreciate.