Casey returns to full strength and is rewarded with his first goal of the season

Union forward returns to full strength, nets equalizer

 

Conor Casey entered the match in the 61st minute.

He scored in the 63rd minute.

While the Philadelphia Union were clearly disappointed with their 2-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls Saturday at Red Bull Arena, they can take solace in the fact that Casey found the back of the net.

And the fact that he’s healthy.

“He gives us a different dimension,” said Union manager John Hackworth.

Casey can score goals. He’s physical. He’s got experience, not to mention an MLS Cup MVP when the Colorado Rapids won the championship in 2010.

Being healthy is huge for the Union.

Casey played six minutes off the bench in the Union’s opener against Sporting Kansas City. Then a nagging hamstring strain kept him out against the Rapids and New England Revolution.

This was the first time he played extended minutes in four league matches.

“It’s always great to get the first goal, and I hope it’s the first in a long season,” Casey said. “It’s nice. I want to carry it over to the next week and through the season. Sure, it’s nice to score and it’s important to be healthy and strong and that goes a long way. I feel strong and 100 percent.”

There are a number of reasons the Union acquired Casey in Stage Two of the MLS Re-Entry Draft.

After all, he’s the Rapids’ all-time leading scorer with 50 goals in six seasons. He has 20 caps with the U.S. men’s National Team, and his last appearance was on Jan. 23, 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Honduras.

Casey suffered a torn Achilles tendon during the 2011 season with the Rapids. He responded with two goals and three assists last season.

The Union were smart enough to understand that if Casey could get healthy, the ability to score goals in bunches was simply too much to pass up.

Casey showed that ability and swagger with a header off a perfect Sheanon Williams throw-in from the sideline.

“He throws his body around in training so we’re used to it,” Williams said. “He comes out and always plays hard. I think he’s comfortable and gives us another big body in front of the net. He came in with a couple other guys like Jeff (Parke) and we’ve all worked together well since preseason. I think he’s going to have a very good season.”

Casey was hoping to play at Colorado and then against New England. But he realized how vital it is to take the approach of performing in a marathon type of season, not a sprint.

The Union received a nice glimpse of what could lie ahead.

“I’m comfortable and I had a good preseason,” said Casey, who set a Rapids record with 16 goals in 2009. “I had a bit of a setback injury-wise, but I feel good now and I want to build off what we did and keep it going. We’ve only played four games. There is so much ahead for us this season.”

No question.

There is so much ahead for Casey as well.

“It was good to get the first one, but I was disappointed in the result, first and foremost,” Casey said. “I know how long the season is. We wanted the win, not a tie or a loss. We’ll learn from this and move forward. I feel good as I said, and now we get ready for the next one (against Columbus).”

Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at andy.jasner@yahoo.com