On June 1, 2013, Jack McInerney scored a goal for the Philadelphia Union. It was a late equalizer on the back post, salvaging a vital point for his team away to an Eastern Conference struggler in a match in which his side had underwhelmed.
On Oct. 12, 2013, Jack McInerney scored a goal for the Philadelphia Union. It was a late equalizer on the back post, salvaging a vital point for his team away to an Eastern Conference struggler in a match in which his side had underwhelmed.
In between those two goals - against Toronto FC and D.C. United, respectively - were 133 days. 954 minutes of league play. 38 shots that didn't go in. In those 133 days, McInerney had a national team camp, an All-Star selection, and his 21st birthday. And zero goals. For weeks, the form of their once-hot forward vexed the Union faithful. An excruciating near-miss for the striker became a weekly ritual. He'd gone from the Next Big Thing in American soccer to a striker who couldn't score.
In an August interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer, McInerney called the slump "tough and frustrating." He spoke of a combination of bad luck and poor form conspiring against him. It was soccer at its cruelest for a player who had wielded a Midas touch in front of goal for the first few months of the season.
And then, with a Kleberson cross and a flick of his head, it was over. He whipped his jersey off, ran over to the traveling Union fans and yelled into the rain and the noise and the night air of the nation's capital. His teammates mobbed him a moment later, and he fell into their arms. The explosion and collapse, the joy and relief and exhaustion, were obvious. Those 133 days were no longer the defining aspect in the narrative of Jack McInerney, striker. He had scored.
"It's the best feeling ever," he said after the game. "A lot of frustration just taken off my shoulders.
"It's been tough, and the longer it goes the more frustrating it gets. But like I said, you've just got to keep fighting and pushing. I've proven that I can score, and I've just go to keep my head up and keep going. Once I got this one, hopefully they keep coming now."
McInerney's mentor, Union coach John Hackworth, was thrilled to see the forward find his scoring boots again, and relieved not to see his team lose to United at a crucial time of the season.
"I'm really happy for Jack," said Hackworth. "For him to come off the bench and get a goal, to get the monkey off his back if you will, and a really important point for us on the road, it's great."
McInerney is the Union's leading scorer this season, with 11 goals.
Thomas Floyd contributed reporting to this article