Philadelphia, PA – Jack McInerney simply can't stop scoring and people are noticing.
The Philadelphia Union forward netted his seventh goal of the season on Saturday, leading his club to a gutsy 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park.
The Union played poorly for much of the match and had loads of trouble keeping possession of the ball in the midfield, but one moment of brilliance with 15 minutes remaining made sure the visitors claimed an unlikely three points.
Sebastien Le Toux set the eventual winning play in motion with a quickly taken free kick which caught the Fire defense off-guard. Le Toux's aerial ball landed right at the feet of McInerney, who fended off Fire defender Jalil Anibaba and slid it past goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
McInerney's seven goals put him atop the MLS Golden Boot standings and, at 20, he is the youngest player in league history to lead the league in goal scoring at any point during the campaign.
The young forward was drafted by the Union in 2010 as a 17-year-old with loads of potential, but he played sparingly during his first three years in the City of Brotherly Love under former coach Peter Nowak.
Last season, McInerney was regularly left out of the 18-man squad by Nowak and was contemplating asking for a trade, but then Nowak was fired by Philadelphia and "Jack Mac" got the opportunity he so desperately needed.
Current Philadelphia head coach John Hackworth, who coached McInerney at the U.S. Under-17 residency program in Bradenton, Fla., immediately inserted him into the starting lineup upon taking over for Nowak and the move paid dividends as McInerney finished with a team-best eight goals last term.
McInerney has clearly carried that form over to this season and is the Union's biggest star attraction on a team full of youth and potential.
The question is: if McInerney can keep up his form, should he be called up to the U.S. men's national team ahead of this summer's Gold Cup competition?
Absolutely, he should.
The national team will have a busy schedule this summer as the club competes in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, as well as a handful of meaningful 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
Many of the most recognizable names on the senior squad (Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and others) are unlikely to see significant minutes during the Gold Cup in order to focus on the World Cup qualifiers, which leaves manager Jurgen Klinsmann with a bevy of roster choices for those matches.
Klinsmann has shown in the past that he is not opposed to calling up unproven MLS players as long as they produce for their club.
This year's January training camp featured 21 MLS players, including first- time call-ups Tally Hall, Tony Beltran and Will Bruin.
Additionally, the U.S. team hasn't received much production out of its forwards and is waiting for someone to step up and take that mantle as there have been a laundry list of names positioned up top by Klinsmann who have failed to get the job done.
Jozy Altidore has been the incumbent forward for Klinsmann, and although he tore up the Dutch Eredivisie this season for 23 goals -- and 31 across all competitions -- he can't seem to get it done for his country, having not scored in a U.S. match in over a year.
Eddie Johnson has returned to the U.S. fold, but hasn't found the back of the net consistently, and last season's Golden Boot winner, Chris Wondolowski, has seldom played for Klinsmann and has yet to score.
McInerney has a nose for goal and is what some would describe as a "poacher."
That's not the best of terms, but the description is accurate as McInerney makes smart runs off the ball and always seems to find himself in perfect position to bury it into the back of the net when the opportunity arises.
His offensive instincts and knack for being in the right place at the right time could give the U.S. side some much-needed production out of its strikers.
And while it is too early in the season to anoint McInerney as MLS's best scorer, if he continues to find the back of the net, he certainly deserves a shot to be on the field when the United States opens its Gold Cup schedule on July 9 against Belize.