[MLS] Jack McInerney
, the youngest player picked at the MLS SuperDraft and the smallest of those who went in the first round, has the "soccer brain" to make a quick
adjustment to the pros, says Philadelphia Union coach Peter Nowak
The 5-foot-8, 155-pound Georgia product -- the leading scorer for the U.S. U-17 national team that
played in last year's U-17 World Cup -- was the seventh overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft
"I remember my dad taking me out to the field and passing the ball around with me," says
McInerney, who started playing soccer at age 4. "I think they signed me up to play soccer to keep me active. I played baseball and soccer. I was doing well at soccer so I decided to stick with it."
He joined a travel team with Atlanta-area youth club Cobb FC a few years later. "We weren't a big club," he says, "but our team was good."
McInerney climbed the Olympic
Player Development (ODP) ladder to the regional level and was spotted by then U.S. U-17 coach John Hackworth
, who is now Nowak's assistant coach at the Union. In fall of 2007 he
joined U.S. Soccer's Residency Program in Bradenton, Fla.
Despite that it meant leaving home at age 14 -- his parents would drive nine hours to visit him -- it was an "easy decision,"
says McInerney. "It was my goal to get to Bradenton. And I think it prepared me for the pros."
Hackworth left Bradenton after McInerney's first semester. New coach Wilmer
said of McInerney, he's "smart and that's why he finds the goal. He knows what his strengths are, he doesn't do too much. Jack's simple and effective, he's not a showman."
In the USA's three qualifying games for the 2009 U-17 World Cup, McInerney scored five goals and made three assists in three victories. At the U-17 World Cup, he scored twice. He graduated from
high school in December and signed a Generation adidas contract.
"The challenge is up to him," says Nowak. "I will give him my knowledge. I will give him my passion, and everything I have
learned in the past. He has enough soccer brain to develop fast."