Philadelphia, PA – Jack McInerney has enjoyed a banner season to this point in the Philadelphia Union's campaign.
The youngster has broken out in a big way and is an early front-runner for MVP honors. His league-high 10 goals comprised more than half of the Union's offensive output heading into Wednesday night's home clash with the Columbus Crew at PPL Park.
Yet despite McInerney's personal success, Philadelphia has toiled in mediocrity, struggling to find consistency and entering Wednesday's match with a .500 record for the season.
But the Union's pedestrian form and questions of their reliance on McInerney were put on hold after they came away with an emphatic 3-0 victory over the Crew.
It was, without question, the best 90 minutes of soccer the Union have put together all season. They were organized in defense and ruthless in front of the Crew net, converting three scoring chances in the span of six minutes to turn a scoreless stalemate into a comfortable lead.
Wednesday's goals came from three different sources, lightening the weight on McInerney's shoulders.
Brian Carroll opened the scoring with a deflected shot from distance, a rare goal from the box-to-box midfielder.
Sheanon Williams chipped in with an acrobatic finish four minutes later to help the Union make the most of a corner kick delivered by Sebastien Le Toux and a flick-on by Carroll.
Conor Casey wrapped up the eventful six-minute span by powering a header past Andy Gruenebaum off of a near-post cross from Le Toux.
McInerney played possibly his least influential match of the season, getting his only sniff at goal in stoppage time when he found himself one-on-one with Gruenebaum only to fire his uncontested shot wide of the post.
A goal for McInerney in that spot would have been the perfect way to cap a complete performance from the Union, but it in no way diminishes what they accomplished on Wednesday.
"I'm careful when trying to make too big a deal out of a game one way or another, but I think this one was the kind of game that we needed," Union coach John Hackworth said after the match. "I mean, there were so many questions being asked of us, whether it was consistency, whether we were fit; I think we answered a lot of those questions (Wednesday night)."
Perhaps the most important question Philadelphia answered against Columbus was that it is not simply the Jack McInerney show in Chester.
The Union received some much-welcomed help in front of goal to alleviate some of the pressure on McInerney.
If they are able to follow that formula, while McInerney continues to chip in, the end product may be a high seed in the Eastern Conference for the playoffs.