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Between the Lines: For McInerney and Casey, chemistry class in session

Apr 26, 2013, 10:40 AM EDT

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I’ve been playing soccer since I was a little kid, and watching it on
TV for more than a decade at this point. But aside from one U.S.
National Team game in 2009 at the Linc, I didn’t start watching soccer
(not counting high school or college soccer) in person until the Union’s
first home game — also at the Linc — in 2010.

After just a few
games, I quickly learned how much there is to actually watch when you
can see outside the boundaries of the TV screen.

So,
on occasion here at The Level, I’ll try to showcase something that the
average fan might not have noticed “Between the Lines.”

I’ve been
pleasantly surprised by the positive feedback I’ve gotten from my posts,
not only from die-hard Union fans, but even more-so from
self-proclaimed “novices” who have gotten into the Union and really
would love to know more about what they’re watching (see: Campitelli,
Enrico).

Take a look at the Union’s first goal from Sunday’s win over D.C. United. Just watch it through once, I’ll wait.

So, you might have noticed a few things: An absolutely stone-cold,
precise finish from Jack McInerney, for sure. Maybe the nice through
pass from Conor Casey. If you were really paying attention, you might
have seen the atrocious turnover by Dejan Jakovic that started
everything.

But go back and watch it again. This time, focus on
McInerney from the beginning of the clip (No. 9, starting at the bottom
of the frame).

He jogs slowly toward the center circle, and even
applies a bit of token pressure on Jakovic at midfield. But as Jakovic
hits the soon-to-be-failed pass, you’ll see McInerney curl upfield
BEFORE Brian Carroll even slides to intercept the pass. By the time
Carroll hits Casey with a short pass, McInerney is already running,
nearly at full-speed.

Casey gets the pass from Carroll and doesn’t
even look up before sliding the ball in front of McInerney. The D.C.
player at the top of the screen — Brandon McDonald — doesn’t realize
what’s happening until it’s too late. His slow reaction keeps McInerney
onside, and the current Major League Soccer scoring leader does the
rest.

Granted, McInerney still had a lot to do to finish the play,
and he did it without even looking like he broke a sweat. With his left
foot. But the story of that play — and the Union’s second goal by Casey, where Danny Cruz delivered a perfect pass — was the chemistry up front for the Union.

If
you’ve followed the Union since their inception, you haven’t seen that
kind of chemistry, maybe ever, save for a few glimpses from Sebastien Le
Toux and a few teammates in 2010 and 2011. In fact, one of the few
really “pretty” goals that I can remember off the top of my head — by
“pretty” I mean a goal with a perfect setup from a teammate and a great
finish — was Le Toux’s second goal in that home opener at the Linc in
2010, off an unreal cross-field pass from current Union TV analyst
Alejandro Moreno (skip ahead to 1:30).

Why do the Union seem to have at least the beginnings of some
chemistry up front? Of course McInerney is coming into his own — and
may find himself wearing the red, white and blue this summer — and
Casey is an experienced player in this league. But for the first time in
a while, the Union have some sort of consistency up front.

In
this case, “consistency” is a relative term. Casey and McInerney have
now been paired together up front for THREE MATCHES IN A ROW! You’ll
have to pardon the all-caps, but former Union manager Peter Nowak
would’ve used McInerney’s inclusion in the MLS Team of the Week to bench
him this Saturday night in New England. Nowak made changes in his
lineup just to prove he knew more about soccer than the average fan.

So,
while Union manager John Hackworth still makes a few lineup decisions
and substitutions that baffle me (more Kleberson, less Lauhoud), he
seems to see what the rest of us are watching: that McInerney and Casey
are developing that unspoken communication that makes soccer fun to
watch. For goal-starved Union fans, that can’t be a bad thing.

So,
the next time you watch a game on TV (the Union face New England
Saturday at 7:30 on The Comcast Network) or watch from the stands (the
team is home three times in May: the 4th, 15th and 18th), take your eye
off the ball for a few minutes and focus on a player seemingly on the
periphery. You just might notice something worth talking about.

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