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Jack McInerney is Excited to Join Columbus Crew SC, but Must Find a Place in a Crowded and Prolific Offense

Crew SC added a new piece on Tuesday, but where does he fit in with the rest of the team?

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

As members of the media stood outside Columbus Crew SC training on Tuesday, shortly after the club announced the addition of forward Jack McInerney, there were some questions about the move.

These questions were not unique to the media, as many around Crew SC Nation were asking similar things.

In six seasons in Major League Soccer, the 23 year old has scored 36 goals, including a 12-goal season in in 2013 with the Philadelphia Union. But why bring in another striker when Kei Kamara is leading MLS in goals?

"We haven't felt like there's enough diversity," head coach Gregg Berhalter said of his offense. "What I mean by that is production. We have five guys that have scored goals this year, so we want more."

McInerney could certainly make it six players to find the back of the net for the Black & Gold, which is what Berhalter is looking for.

"I think he gives us the ability to score goals," the head coach explained. "Obviously we have Kei as a striker who's done that and [Aaron Schoenfeld] and [Adam Bedell] who have worked extremely hard to put themselves in position, but beside Kei, this is a proven goal scorer. And we know Aaron and Adam give us a certain element and Jack will give us another element."

An expensive element though, as McInerney, who is expected to be Kamara's primary backup in the formation Berhalter uses, will be the third-highest paid player on the team with his reported $334,166.67 salary this year (which will apparently be prorated for the remainder of the season).

Of course McInerney himself may have had some questions as well.

While he was well aware that his former club, the Montreal Impact, were bringing in a proven European striker in Didier Drogba, he did not believe he would be the one on the move.

"I was told someone would probably be moving and I didn't think it would be me," McInerney said in his first conference call with the Columbus media. "I didn't think I was going to be the one that they were considering, but at the end of the day it's part of the business and I understand it, I'm just excited to be joining [Crew SC] now.

"I just want to come here and help the team win and score goals. Obviously Kei has had a great season and the team is doing pretty well, so I am just excited to be a part of it all. I talked to Gregg a little bit and he is excited for me to be here and I think that alone gets my hopes up. He said I'll have my opportunities and I know when I get those opportunities I'll have to make the most of them."

The question is, where will those opportunities come?

When asked if Berhalter would consider playing both forwards together, his response was. "Who knows?" He did point out that the team has used two forwards in the past, but that has typically been in non-league games or when down late in a match.

When asked about the possibility of playing alongside Kamara, McInerney sounded excited.

"I think with Kei being up top, he is obviously very strong and physical," the new Crew SC addition explained. "They play balls into him and Kei will lay them off to people who run off of Kei and get in behind. I think I am one of those players that can really get in behind and play off of him, so I look at it as an opportunity for myself."

But a two-forward lineup would likely take Federico Higuain off the field, someone McInerney is also excited to play with.

"I've been pretty jealous of the players that have played with him," he said of Columbus' No. 10. "I think his first instinct is to go get the ball and the second he gets the ball, he looks for people making runs. I think for myself, that is one of my best attributes is just making runs and getting in behind. His first thought is to look for the pass, so I think that we will play great together."

Asked about playing another position and McInerney was quick to dismiss that possibility, saying, "I've only played up top my entire career." While Kamara had success playing out wide, it's hard to imagine moving the best goal scorer in MLS away from goal or taking Ethan Finlay or Justin Meram off the field.

However Berhalter elects to use McInerney, the Black & Gold added another dangerous piece to what is currently the second-best attacking side statistically in the league and did so while only giving up a second-round draft pick.

While Crew SC has other areas of need, specifically fixing a defense that has conceded more goals than the offense has scored, adding more firepower is never a negative.

"What it does is it gives us a guy who has a known goal product in the league, and that's reassuring," Berhalter said. "You never know what happens down the line with injuries or suspensions or anything. This gives us a little bit of protection."