When told, Conor Casey wasn’t even aware.
Sept, 30, 2012 against the Los Angeles Galaxy…
The last time the big-bodied forward played a match in an MLS uniform.
After playing 60 minutes in a 1-1 draw against Orlando City in the Union’s preseason opener that date was brought to his attention and for a fleeting moment, Casey was taken aback.
“Wait, when?” he asked outside the locker room at ESPN Wide World of Sports, the site of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic. “Wow, well when you put it that way [playing in this match against Orlando City] felt great.”
Injuries setback a career that positions Casey alongside some the all-time greats in Major League Soccer, but coming into this season with the Union, Casey, 31, says he’s feeling strong, sharp and thus far, his play reflects it. He’s looked strong in training sessions and featured in two other preseason matches against Montreal in Jacksonville and was a force in what amounted to a 3-0 rout of Toronto FC on Saturday.
“I feel good, I feel real good, it’s nice to be back out there on the field,” said Casey following the Orlando City match. “Preseason is always grueling, but it’s great to be able to take part in one and it’s exciting to get a good run in our first real competition against somebody else. That’s all real positive.”
What is also positive is that Casey still shows the same traits that made him a success in the league. His ability to collect a pass and use his imposing frame to ward off opposition is still apparent. This season, it’s expected that he will pair with a carousel of speedy Union forwards all in games where he’ll be expected to provide the one-two – or even third – punch to the offensive side of the lineup.
“Both me and [Sebastien Le Toux], and him and [Jack McInerney] have had a lot of time together in preseason and we are starting to build those relationships,” Casey said. “So you know the more time we play together the better. They both are very good finishers and have speed…it’s rare that you are going to see two big guys playing together up top, so obviously I’ll be paired with both at some point and I think it’s a good option.”
However, it’s not just his game, but his presence off the field that makes Casey a valued asset. His background includes a brief stint with teams in Europe, an MLS title with Colorado in 2010, and 20 U.S. national team appearances. All of which combined has made Casey knowledgeable beyond his years when it comes to the ins and outs of football. This offseason he was brought in along with Le Toux and defender Jeff Parke to lend not just experience on the field, but off it as well.
“It’s kind of strange to be one of the elder players,” Casey said. “But we have a really good group of guys both older and younger who are eager to learn. “
Of course it all remains to be seen, but it’s likely given the way things are shaping up that Conor Casey shouldn’t be too surprised to see his name called on a very important date for his new club in Philadelphia:
March 2, 2013 vs. Sporting Kansas City.
Contact Union writer Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org