Casey's return to starting XI gives Rapids lift in DC defeat

Conor Casey - May 16, 2012

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In a game in which two defensive miscues sent the Colorado Rapids to a 2-0 defeat at RFK Stadium on Wednesday night, one of the lone bright spots came in attack, as Conor Casey, the Rapids' all-time leading goalscorer, made his long-anticipated return to the starting lineup.

Casey played 65 minutes, recording three shots exactly 10 months after suffering a ruptured Achilles in Seattle. The 30-year-old looked increasingly comfortable after two previous league appearances as a sub.

“I was looking to get in a good run and sweat,” Casey said following the game. “Physically, it’s all positive. The minutes were good. I didn’t feel too bad at the end, so that’s good. I’m really excited about that, and getting back in the swing of it.”

HIGHLIGHTS: D.C. United vs. Colorado

It didn’t take long for Casey to make an impact Wednesday night. In the 22nd minute, he fired a long-range effort outside the penalty box that narrowly sailed above D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid’s net. Two minutes later, he guided a powerful header on net but was whistled for pushing off in the scrum to be first to the ball.

Despite the zero on the scoreboard for the evening, Casey’s impact was noticeable. After the match, the Rapids were not shy in express their excitement surrounding the star striker’s return.

“I’m happy with Conor, he had a very good game,” said Rapids coach Oscar Pareja, who also noted Casey will be in contention to start again Saturday against Sporting Kansas City (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online). “We’ve worked with him for so long, and we’ll make sure he gets recuperated, but he’s getting ready to play Saturday.”

Casey’s return comes at a critical juncture for the Rapids, who lost striker Omar Cummings to a sprained ankle less than two weeks ago and may be without midfield ace Brian Mullan on Saturday as well. But with Casey’s goalscoring presence back in the lineup, it should prove slightly easier for the Rapids to work through the growing list of injuries limiting Pareja’s lineup selection.

“It was fantastic [getting Casey back],” midfielder Jeff Larentowicz said. “He’s a natural forward, a natural player. He’s got tremendous skill on the ball, and that’s something we’ve lacked from the start of the year. I thought he did well tonight.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.