It wasn’t that long ago when Conor Casey was the “it” guy in Major League Soccer. There was a time in where Casey’s name (and goals being scored at a high rate) were synonymous.
On Friday, the Union selected the former Colorado Rapids forwards with the No. 5 pick in stage two of MLS' re-entry draft in the hopes that finally Philly has the big man on attack it's always yearned for.
Casey had three consecutive seasons (2008-10) where his goal count ended in double digits, with arguably his best season arriving in 2009, when he finished the season with 16 goals in just 24 regular season appearances. The following year, Casey netted 15 more in both MLS regular season play and the playoffs, leading Colorado to its first ever MLS Cup title, in which he was named the MVP. It was the Rapids first appearance in an MLS Cup since 1997, and Casey was instrumental in leading the charge.
That was then.
While Casey left Colorado as the Rapids all-time leading goal scorer (50 goals, 16 assists), he also departed with the disappointment of being a part of the club’s worst season in recent memory and having to rehab his second Achilles injury in two years. There is no guarantee on how Casey’s body will respond, but Hackworth is confident he found the right man – and at the right price.
“He’s a guy that’s going to put his head down and nose to the grindstone and work just as hard as he can to get the job done for whatever team he’s on,” said Union manager John Hackworth told philadelphiaunion.com recently, who coached Casey during a stint with the U.S. men’s national team. Casey has 20 caps with the national team, his last appearance coming in 2010. “Conor is that big body we need here on attack and I believe he still has a lot to prove.”
Acquiring Casey in the second round of the re-entry draft was a smart move. In Stage 2, it’s teams – not players – that have a lot more power in player negotiations. It’s all about getting the player down to a price that is ideal for the club’s overall salary budget; of course, doing so while not straying far from salary arrangement terms dictated by MLS’ player’s union.
And while we won’t know until later in the season what the team paid for the big man up top, (Casey collected a hefty $400,000 in guaranteed compensation during his last season in Colorado) he comes at a price not just financially satisfying for all, but gives Casey the fresh start he requested.
“Conor has been an incredibly important part of the Rapids since he got here in 2007, and has forever left his mark on the club," technical director Paul Bravo recently told The Denver Post. But after having a conversation with him about his future, we all decided that it was the right time to move on."
This offseason has been all about fresh starts.
Just ask forward Sebastien Le Toux, who’s whirlwind year after playing for Vancouver and New York came full circle in a return to the Union just last week. Or defender Jeff Parke, who after revitalizing his career in Seattle, sought a trade deal which by all outward appearances will see him end his MLS career in Philadelphia. In 2007, Conor Casey was given a fresh start in Colorado after he was acquired from Toronto during the 2007 MLS season.
He finished the season as the Rapids Comeback Player of the Year.
Will history have a way of repeating itself?
Contact Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Kerith on Twitter @sprtswtr