He is young, learning, and improving, but that still doesn't make the adjustment to professional soccer - or, more to the point, getting used to uneven playing time - any easier for Union forward Jack McInerney.

McInerney, who turned 19 on Aug. 5, has enjoyed his year and a half with the team after turning professional right out of high school in Georgia, but the biggest adjustment has often been coping with not being a full-time regular for the first time in his life.

McInerney hopes he earned a few more minutes after his best performance of the season in Saturday's 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo.

He scored his first goal of the Major League Soccer season and fourth in his two-year career. Another goal was wiped out by an offsides call.

"I went home, took a couple of looks at that play, and I do think I was off," McInerney said earlier this week as the Union prepared for Saturday's 8 p.m. game at PPL Park against FC Dallas.

It was probably the only flaw in his game Saturday, as McInerney was the Union's most effective player before being lifted in the 66th minute.

McInerney had not played in the Union's three previous MLS games, and being in and out of the lineup has been his biggest adjustment.

"I never really had been taken out as a sub in my younger years, and coming here and wondering if I will get in a game has definitely been tough," McInerney said. "I understand I am young and am preparing for the future."

That still doesn't make it easy. McInerney, and any other player not in the starting lineup, likely feel they could be productive if given the chance.

All the players can do is produce when they are on the field. At the least, McInerney should earn himself some more minutes in future matches.

"It gives me a lot of confidence going into this week," he said. "I know I have to pick up my play even more, and hopefully [team manager] Peter [Nowak] sees that and gives me another chance in another game."

Nowak hasn't exactly thrown the young players into the fire, but he hasn't been afraid to use them, either. Nothing is handed out on the team, and much of what is earned comes from some highly competitive practices.

"You definitely have to prove yourself in practice, and Peter will mix it up and make it so the first team [plays] against some of the second-team guys who don't play as much, and he is always on the young guys to take it to the first team," McInerney said.

McInerney has often been inserted into games late in the second half and given the most difficult of jobs - create some sort of offensive spark.

He has shown a propensity to do just that, regardless of his goal total.