Montreal Impact coach Frank Klopas calls Jack McInerney a "pure striker," and that label fit perfectly after his two-goal performance on Sunday night.
The 21-year-old, obtained Apr. 4 in a trade with the Philadelphia Union, headed in a goal just before halftime and surprised himself with a blind shot in off a post in the second half as the Impact downed the slumping Houston Dynamo 3-0.
Marco Di Vaio added a late goal as the Impact (3-7-5) followed up a strong 0-0 draw in Vancouver on Wednesday with a win that gave them points in consecutive games for the time since April.
After a horrendous start to the season, the Impact are 2-1-1 in its last four. Three of their next four games are on the road, where Montreal has yet to win this season, starting Saturday at Chivas USA in California.
"It was important after the [World Cup] break to get a point in Vancouver and important to have consistency and follow that with a good result," said Klopas. "We have to build on this."
The Dynamo (5-10-2) have been outscored 13-0 while losing five games in a row. Houston had Honduran midfielder Boniek Garcia back from the World Cup in Brazil but is still missing U.S. international Brad Davis.
It was a prime chance for Montreal to get a much-needed points. While the Impact controlled most of the match and outshot Houston 17-8, it took McInerney's soft touch around the net to bag the three points.
The striker known as Jack Mac has been everything the Impact hoped for when they sent 2012 first overall draft pick Andrew Wenger to Philadelphia. McInerney has six goals in eight MLS matches since joining the Impact (he had one for the Union before the trade), and added three more in Voyageurs Cup play.
"He's a pure striker," said Klopas. "He might not do anything or he might not be involved in the buildup, but then boom. One opportunity.
"It's been good for him here working with Marco. The runs he makes are very similar."
Added McInerney: "It's the way I've always been. I don't do anything for 89 minutes and I get one chance and I usually put it away."
He got his first of the night in the 42nd minute as he broke toward the goal and headed a pass from fullback Eric Miller past goalie Tally Hall.
Then he added an impressive one in the 75th, putting the ball in off a post on a bicycle kick with his back to the net, after Justin Mapp beat a defender and lobbed a pass in front.
"I got a little lucky," said McInerney. "Just make solid contact and whatever happens."
'Screaming at me to leave it'
The smile of disbelief on Di Vaio's face afterward showed even the former Bolgna striker was impressed.
"[Di Vaio] didn't say anything, but someone told me he was screaming at me to leave it," said McInerney. "But I don't think he can be too mad at me."
The Impact hope their season is turning around. They got centreback Matteo Ferrari back earlier in the week and both Di Vaio and Mapp returned from injuries for the Houston game. Both started on the bench and came on in the second half.
"It's good moving forward," said Mapp. "The first part of the season didn't go the way we wanted, obviously.
"But if you can put two or three wins together, you're right back in the mix. It gives us confidence going forward."
Captain Patrice Bernier said McInerney's second goal may be a sign that balls that wouldn't go in earlier in the campaign are now starting to find the net.
A tap-in goal for Di Vaio after Hall only got a hand on Andres Romero's shot was also a plus. It was only the second in an injury-plagued season for the striker who had 20 goals in 2013.
'It's the way things are going'
There was silence in the Houston locker room.
The Dynamo have not scored in a league game since May 17, a club record span of 479 minutes.
That nearly ended 30 minutes in when Omar Cummings' volley of a long pass from Giles Barnes struck the post. Instead, the Impact and goalie Troy Perkins got consecutive clean sheets for the first time since last August.
"It's the way things are going," said Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear, who was in no mood to talk after the defeat.
Asked what his team needs to do to get out of its slump, he said: "Win a game. It gives you confidence."
Saputo Stadium has been a tough place for Houston the last two seasons. In 2013, they were outscored 7-0 in a pair of losses in Montreal. The Dynamo do much of the same when Montreal visits Houston, including a 1-0 win there earlier this season.
The stadium was mostly quiet through the first half as a group of their main supporters protested the expulsion of some members at the team's last home game for lighting flares.