The only reason Conor Casey didn’t score a hat trick against D.C. United is perhaps a bit of jealousy at not being able to take advantage of the Union’s free haircut promotion with Great Clips.
On a night in which the Union’s big forward fired on all cylinders, it was his pair of goals that forged a 2-0 win over Eastern Conference rival D.C. United in front of a sellout crowd of 18,612 at PPL Park.
The brace was Casey’s second of the season, his first in a 3-0 win at PPL Park against New York. Casey has always emerged strong against the Union’s rivals this season and Saturday night against United was no different.
But it wasn’t his stats – numbers that continue to climb on a rapid rate – that Casey wanted to dwell on postgame.
“It was a must-win,” said Casey on what fueled his performance. “We were playing against an Eastern Conference team that’s struggled this year and has had some injuries coming into this week. Regardless we haven’t dropped two in a row yet this year and we were playing at home. It was a must-win and it was great that we were able to come away with the points.”
Casey’s first goal came in the 35th minute, after a ball into the 18-yard-box from Sheanon Williams was flicked on by Sebastien Le Toux. Casey ran onto Le Toux’ flick and slotted it past a lunging Bill Hamid. In the 78th, Casey got the better of Hamid once more, as a lofted ball to the back post found Casey for a one-timed volley past the D.C. United goalkeeper.
“He scores two goals, fantastic,” said Union manager John Hackworth. “But what he did early in that game changed a little bit of it by dropping deep in the midfield and giving us the ability to play into him and off of him, it changed things for us. So really happy for him and that he continues to do those things; I have said it all along, I am really glad we have him.”
Le Toux extended his league lead in assists with 12 while Fabinho chimed in with his second helper of the season. Interestingly enough, Le Toux played on the left side of the pitch out of position in behind Fabinho, but was still able to connect with his usual partner in behind in Williams for the game’s first goal.
The woes continue to mount for United (3-16-4, 13 points) who still seek their first win away from RFK Stadium. Coming up short against the Union meant United dropped to 0-8-3 on the road and are the only team in MLS without a road win. However the Union (10-7-7, 37 points) picked up their sixth win of the season at PPL Park.
Additionally, Zac MacMath had another brilliant game earning his third shutout in four matches and his eighth overall this season. MacMath looked especially keen in the 72nd minute when he noticed a streaking Le Toux down the middle of the field and played a ball into stride that was broken up by a charging Hamid.
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It wasn’t exactly what you’d expect from a Union-United showdown as only four cautions were issued and in terms of extracurricular activity off the ball it was few and far between. What the Union gain from this is even more swagger going into another tough battle against another rival in New York (8 p.m., NBC Sports Network). Nestled in third in place, the Union within two points of East leaders Sporting Kansas City (11-7-6, 39 points) and are a point behind Red Bull.
The Union return to action at PPL Park on August 31 when look to exact revenge against Montreal (7:30 p.m., purchase tickets). The last time those two met was on May 25 when the Marco Di Vaio fueled a 5-3 defeat in Canada.
“I think, and I have said this all along, that we have a group of players who believe in each other, they trust each other,” said Hackworth. “I think the character you see out of our team every time we have a negative result, to come back and have a positive one. We have done it all year long and I think our resolve that way is excellent.”
Contact Union writer Kerith Gabriel at email@example.com