Replacing Casey not easy, but Smith weighing options
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — The Colorado Rapids took a big hit to their offensive line after news came Tuesday that Conor Casey will be out for the rest of the season — and possibly eight months total — with a torn Achilles tendon.
The Rapids’ leading scorer went down unchallenged clutching his left ankle area in the 38th minute of the 4-3 defeat to the Seattle Sounders last Saturday. An MRI revealed a tear and the striker will undergo surgery on Wednesday.
“It’s terrible on a personal level for him because nobody wants to go through something like that,” midfielder Jeff Larentowicz told MLSsoccer.com. “I know he’s gone through extensive rehab processes in his life and this is another one that’s very difficult. For the team, it’s just as bad because he’s our goal-scorer. It changes the way we play going forward. It’s another opportunity for us to adapt and we are going to have find consistency in other guys.”
Despite finding themselves without their biggest threat, the Rapids can take some solace in the fact that they have a stacked front line. The player most likely player to fill in for Casey is Caleb Folan. The Irish international has three goals for the season, the latest at the death against Seattle.
“Caleb will get more football,” head coach Gary Smith said. "I am sure he is looking forward to that. He’s always very heavily in my mind set — I just have to make sure he’s getting the right amount of football as he adapts to the league and as he gets fully over some of the physical and health issues he might have had before.”
However, replacing Casey will not be easy, Smith acknowledged.
“I am bitterly disappointed for Conor, who was in a terrific run of form,” he said. “It’s a big challenge for the player. He’s had some serious injuries before and he’s come good, and I don’t see any reason he can’t get over this and still be as effective. But for both us and him, we are going to miss each other. We are going to miss him not being in the team, and he is going to miss being in it.”
While Folan is the obvious replacement for Casey, the Rapids do have other options. Macoumba Kandji is very close to coming back for the first time since the team won the MLS Cup final, though Smith said Kandji is still at least two weeks away from being considered. Quincy Amarikwa and Andre Akpan, who came on for the final minutes against Seattle, are two young players who will undoubtedly feature as well.
“The pair of them have shown an awful lot this year,” Smith said, adding it was unlikely there will be any additions to the squad as a result of Casey’s injury.
“We don’t have the finances,” he said. “Somebody might offer me the crown jewels and as much as Fort Knox holds in gold and I may be put in a position, but at this point in time, there isn’t any of my players I would want to move.”
Smith also said it would be hard to prove the new pitch at Seattle — a natural grass surface laid over the exisiting artificial turf ahead of Wednesday's friendly against Manchester United — was to blame for Casey’s injury, but he didn’t spare his criticism of the surface.
“The surface was dreadful, absolutely dreadful,” he said. “It wasn’t only spongy, it was like running in treacle. The most important play in the game was Conor going off. Can we relate that to the pitch? I think so. I think the pitch moved; there’s no stable foundation to the turf.”
For now, the Rapids have to face a life without Casey and focus on two upcoming home games this week, starting with a visit from the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night.
“We are going to miss Conor, he is a big part of the team for sure,” defender Tyrone Marshall told MLSsoccer.com. “He brings that element of holding the ball up, brings the midfielders into play and is a goal-scorer. He’s going to be missed dearly but, at the end of the day, we have to move on and I am sure there are guys capable of stepping in and filling the spot.”