Big man with an even bigger challenge of holding down Union attack
Conor Casey brings to the table what the Union have been lacking for several years: target man qualities.
You'd have to go back to 2010, when veteran Alejandro Moreno would consistently scrap inside the box, occupying defenders, drawing fouls, and providing space for other strikers. That's what the Union hope to replicate by bringing in the former United States international and recent MLS Cup winner.
"It's a great opportunity for me personally to help a team, and get some new life," said Casey, who leaves Colorado as the Rapids' all-time leading goal scorer. "It's a good group of guys, judging from the couple days I've been here. I know that they have high goals for a young team. I'm just really excited to be here and integrate myself into the team and get to know the guys."
Casey was acquired by the Union in the MLS Re-Entry draft, after spending five years with the Rapids.
Despite suffering an achilles injury that limited his playing time in 2011 and 2012, the six foot one forward says he feels good coming into his first year with Philadelphia.
"I had a good offseason and I'm looking forward just to having a full preseason," Casey explained. "I haven't had (a full preseason) in a couple of years so it will be good to have that. If you don't have that preseason, then a lot of times you're chasing (your fitness) throughout the regular season. I'm just excited to have a full preseason to get ready for the year."
So what happens to the other strikers on the roster?
Union manager John Hackworth hasn't ruled out the possibility of putting Casey, Sebastien Le Toux, and Jack McInerney all on the field at the same time. But formations and tactics aside, it's clear that there are more options at the forward position this year.
"We haven't talked too much about specifics right now," Casey told reporters. "I think there's a lot of great options. Obviously Jack has a lot of pace. He's a very skillful, young guy. Seba's had a lot of success here so I know he's happy to back too. It gives us a lot of different options, a lot of looks, so it's up to us to cause other teams problems."
Casey could conceivably play as the point man in a 4-3-3, with Le Toux and McInerney on either side of the attack.
In a more traditional 4-4-2, his inside-the-box skill set could provide space for either striker to run off of.
"It's very important, it's a good balance to have when you have big guys and small guys," Casey said. "I spend a lot of my time with my back to the goal battling, so hopefully that will open a lot of space for those guys to be able to be more creative."
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at email@example.com