Of the Philadelphia Union homegrowns who made their debuts this season, 18-year-old Jack McGlynn may have had the most significant arc of them all, going from earning his first start early in the season to burying a shootout penalty in the playoffs that helped send the Union to their very first Eastern Conference Final.
McGlynn stepped into the starting lineup in May, after Jose Martinez earned a two-game red card suspension for karate chopping NYCFC’s Taty Castellanos. With Leon Flach sliding into the defensive midfielder role, McGlynn took over the spot at the left side of the diamond.
During those starts against Chicago and New England, McGlynn was competent, and even flashed glimpses of his passing ability. While he was still getting his feet wet, it was clear that he had potential.
Between injuries, World Cup qualifying, and the extra matches for Concacaf Champions League, the Union relied on their bench throughout the season, and McGlynn, like the other homegrowns, was called upon to play a significant part. He played 779 minutes across all competitions and steadily grew into his role in the midfield as a left-footed playmaker.
While McGlynn couldn’t match Leon Flach’s relentless ball-winning ability on the left side of the diamond, his passing was where he stood out. He provided the assist on Paxten Aaronson’s goal versus FC Cincinnati, but, more importantly, he showed the ability to create scoring opportunities for the Union.
His expected assists per 90 minutes for the season was 0.30—a number that’s comparable to elite MLS playmakers like Emanuel Reynoso, Djordje Mihailovic, and Ryan Gauld, though McGlynn played significantly fewer minutes. If he can continue to create chances while earning more playing time next season, he will become a key part of the Union’s offense.
It seemed like every homegrown had a big moment in 2021, and McGlynn’s was perhaps the biggest. After asking to take a penalty kick in the playoff shootout against Nashville SC, he stutter-stepped, fired his shot past the Nashville keeper, then did the “ice-in-my-veins” celebration. Beyond helping send the Union to the Eastern Conference Finals, it was a powerful statement that the Union homegrowns were ready to deliver in big moments.
McGlynn’s role next year will depend on what happens this off-season, but he’s already shown that he’s ready for anything Major League Soccer can throw at him. If he can become more goal dangerous (he had five goals in 14 games for Union II in 2020 but none this season), he will be a potent weapon for a Union team that’s looking to add more offensive threats in 2022.