I had the great pleasure of sitting-in on the Union’s 90th Minute Radio Show last night from Chickie’s and Pete’s in Drexel Hill. In case you missed it, there was some interesting speculation about Jack McInerney’s future and this weekend’s match against FC Dallas.
Union Insider Kerith Gabriel says he’s heard from sources that McInerney, the Union’s leading goal producer and perhaps the brightest rising star in the MLS, is almost certainly going to be plucked by the U.S. Men’s National Gold Cup Team, perhaps tomorrow (Thursday). While it would be a great opportunity for the 20-year-old, the loss would deprive Philadelphia of its most dynamic player for as long as four weeks and take McInerney off the roster for some important matches this weekend against Dallas and next Wednesday against Real Salt Lake, the top club in the MLS West.
I don’t know how the average fan will take this news if it happens. Since soccer fans tend to be supporters for the sport across the board, some may see this as a nothing more than a temporary transfer of a favorite player from one club they like to another they like. And on a personal level, you have to be happy for Jack; after all, any talented player aspires to bigger and better things and a stint with the National Team would be a high honor.
On the other hand, it’s hard to know how much of a role would be available to a 20-year-old, even with McInerney’s growing reputation as a killer striker. This may be even more the case after McInerney missed on several opportunities last weekend. If Jack winds-up on the bench for the U.S. club or only gets in as a sub with limited results, I’ll be among those bemoaning this quirk of world soccer where a player’s regular team can be adversely affected by the long creeping shadow of the national sport.
However, I’ll admit that there’s another way to look at it. To win the MLS Cup, a team needs to rise above this sort or disadvantage, the same way it might have to deal with long-term injuries. In short, a true champion is a club that can supply more than just a talented starting 11 and a few decent super-subs. Whether the Union is this sort of team is debatable. We may have a chance to find out for real beginning this weekend.
In case you missed it, Union midfielder Keon Daniel has also been plucked by his native Trinidad and Tobago National Squad. So far, he’s started once. His club was shut-out.
Were it up to me, Antoinne Hoppenot would get a couple of tries in the starting line-up if Jack goes, but The Philly Soccer Page’s Daniel Gajdamowicz suggests another option would be Aaron Wheeler who, so far, has only logged one MLS minute this season with the A Team. I had a chance to chat with Wheeler last weekend at a public appearance. The Baltimore-area native is a nice guy, fit, a hard trainer, and appears ready to go if called upon.
FC DALLAS: There was also some interesting analysis by Kerith Gabriel and Heather Mitts on the show last night concerning this weekend’s match (Saturday, 5:30 p.m., PPL Park, NBC Sports Channel). Gabriel pointed-out that FC Dallas has only one road win this year and has been struggling of late after a fast start. Mitts pointed-out that the Texans should be gassed after a tough draw last weekend against Kansas City and an even tougher mid-week match tonight against red-hot Portland. Mitts also noted that the Dallas home pitch is one of the smaller fields in the MLS and there will be more ground to cover in Chester Saturday night. Advantage: Philadelphia. I added that the weather will be warm and humid, much tougher on a winded road team than a rested home squad, especially with PPL getting imposing again. Last weekend’s crowd was a standing-room only 19000+. Another nice turn-out wouldn’t hurt the Union’s cause this week, too.