4914_isi_mcinerneyjack_mlstq031514134 Tony Quinn/isiphotos.com
Major League Soccer

Jack McInerney Hopes to Make Impact in Montreal

The 21-year-old forward got blindsided by last Friday's trade from Philadelphia to Montreal, but now he's excited about playing alongside a Marco Di Vaio in a style that suits his game.

BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
April 09, 2014
11:05 AM
LAST FRIDAY BEGAN like any other day for Jack McInerney. He arrived early at Philadelphia Union practice in preparation for Saturday’s game against Chicago, just like had done on gamedays since 2010.

But then coach John Hackworth pulled the 21-year-old forward into his office. Hackworth proceeded to inform McInerney that he was traded to Montreal in return for 2012 first overall draft pick Andrew Wenger. The move came as a complete surprise to just about everyone, including McInerney. There had been no rumors or even any indication that a trade was imminent.

For McInerney, it was an unusual feeling because Philadelphia was the only club he had ever known. Drafted out of high school four years ago, McInerney blossomed as a professional with the Union. He scored 25 times in 95 games for the club, but now he was heading to a different team, a different setup, and a different country.

McInerney quietly left the Union’s practice before many of his teammates arrived. As he was pulling out in his car, Amobi Okugo was pulling in. The two entered into the league in 2010 and were drafted by the Union with consecutive picks—McInerney with the seventh overall pick and Okugo with the sixth. Along with Zak MacMath and Antoine Hoppenot, the quartet had all lived in the same area of Philadelphia for years.

The trade left McInerney with conflicting emotions.

“It was definitely surprising,” McInerney told American Soccer Now. “I was a bit nervous at first but I was excited the more I came to think about it. I always figured I wasn’t going to play for Philly forever but it was definitely sad because Philly was all I came to know. The more I came to think about it, I think this is kind of a better fit for me. I’m happy to be here but I’m definitely a little emotional and sad about leaving Philly.”

As McInerney adjusted to the news of the trade, he began to see how it might make sense. Tactically speaking, Montreal’s offense is built around Italian forward Marco Di Vaio who is a lethal finisher and an overall complete forward. The addition of McInerney provides the Impact with a new dimension in the attack that would play to his strengths—which wasn't always the case in Philadelphia.

“In Philly with the 4-3-3, I think you need the prototypical No. 9 striker who is going to hold up the ball,” McInereny explained. “Obviously, I’m not going to be that guy. I’m going to be that guy that needs support and I’m going to make runs in behind the defense. I think here, the team is built around Di Vaio’s style of play. I think there’s more playmakers here that can cause trouble themselves to get Di Vaio the ball.”

Montreal coach Frank Klopas said the potential combination of McInereny and Di Vaio was the decisive factor in agreeing to the trade. McInereny is optimistic that the adjustment to the Impact should only take a week or two despite the fact he has only met Di Vaio once before—at last year’s All Star Game in Kansas City.

Klopas, however, was saying that the team would look to get McInerney onto the field with Di Vaio all week in training.

“We’ll see through the week and, obviously, that’s the reason we have him here,” Klopas told the media on Tuesday regarding McInereny and Di Vaio. “I think that they can play well together, but it’s stuff that we have to do at training this week.”

McInerney remains one of the most talented young American forwards in MLS, and like national team starter Michael Bradley, he now finds himself playing for a Canadian club in a league that has grabbed a lot of headlines this year.

With Clint Dempsey and Bradley returning from Europe to join MLS, as well high-profile expansions in Miami and New York set for the future, McInerney is excited about the league. Throughout his career he has always kept the door open to making a move to Europe but with the way the league has been going, he said that moving overseas is not foremost in his mind.

“It definitely changes [my thinking] to see guys like that coming into the league,” McInerney said. “They got a taste of Europe and know what it’s like but it shows how strong and important this league is getting at attracting world class talent. I never specifically said I was going to go to Europe one day. If it does come along, it’s just like coming to Montreal. It’s a new club with new faces and kind of a fresh start."

"If that ever came along, I would look into it but it’s not at the top of my list right now. I’m happy where I am.”

As McInerney looks to reestablish himself as a top scorer with a new club, this year could also be a big year in that he could finally see his breakthrough into the U.S. national team. Last year the Georgia native was called up by U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann for the 2013 Gold Cup but did not play in the tournament.

When the World Cup concludes this July in Brazil, a new cycle will begin with nearly 11 months until the team’s next official competition, the 2015 Gold Cup. During this time new players will likely be given opportunities to make their way into the team.

After arriving in Montreal on Monday, McInerney said he is not thinking much about the international game. For now, he is aware he simply has to play well in Montreal before additional doors are opened.

“I think coming here and playing under a world class striker in Di Vaio is definitely going to help my game and help me to get where I want to be in the future,” McInerney said. “It’s not on my mind right now but I know it’s coming up. I’m just focused on starting off how I did last year and if I do that, it will come."

The 2013 Gold Cup "changed the way I see the game and what to expect if I do get a future call-up,” he added. “When I went there, it was a whole different level of play. Now that I got a taste of what it’s like there and what it’s going to take to get there, it’s only going to help me to know what to expect in the future.”

Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.

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