Three for Thursday: Healthy returns in 2013 for Casey, Shea & Zakuani

The sad news that broke on Wednesday about Calen Carr’s torn ACL and pending surgery got me thinking.

First, what a drag. Carr was a beast in the first half of MLS Cup and one of the driving forces for a Houston Dynamo team that seemed hell-bent on ruining David Beckham’s going-away party. Plus, he’s just a class act who worked hard to get back into the conversation after a strange preseason concussion suffered in 2011 made him expendable in Chicago. 

But add this new setback, a repeat of the torn ACL he suffered in 2008 in the same knee, and you’ve got a great talent who appears to be somewhat cursed. He’ll be back next year, but what would it take to see this guy healthy for a full season, to see what he can really do?

And that’s my second thought. Which three players in MLS would you most like to see make it through next season unscathed? Unhampered by nagging hamstrings? Untethered to the trainers’ table? You get the point.

Here’s a look at three I’m watching in 2013.

1. Conor Casey – I know, I know. Casey was a drag on the Rapids lineup last season to the point that they sent him packing, unable to agree on a contract for a guy whose numbers have dropped since winning the MVP at MLS Cup 2010. That Achilles’ tendon injury from 2011 was the moment when Casey became more pedestrian, and everyone seemed to forget he should have been on the World Cup team in 2010.

But something tells me that another healthy season might remind fans what Casey can do, even if it’s going to be with a team outside Colorado. Don’t forget that this is a guy who was a double-digit scorer each season from 2008-10, and a nightmare when paired with speedster Omar Cummings.

He won’t have Cummings anymore, but pair him with another speedy forward, serve him some good balls from the wing and see what you get – a healthy Casey will still give you double-digit goals. I’d love to see him do it.

2. Brek Shea – Was there a more disappointing player in the league in 2012 than Blonde Ambition (copyright pending)? Probably not, considering how much everyone hyped him up (this website very much included) into the absolute next biggest American soccer star since … well, the last one.

But it turns out that Shea, who never bothered to so much as take a nap after that breakout 2011 season put him on everyone’s radar, was battling injuries that would have kept a guy like me from walking to the subway, let alone leading my team back to the postseason. It was bad enough that a series of foot specialists decided last month that, yeah, they should go ahead and take out that bone with the split in it underneath Brek’s toe. Ewwwww.

He’ll miss two more months, so MLS should expect to see both a fresh hairdo by First Kick in March (polkadots!) and a refreshed talent on the field.

3. Steve Zakuani – This one is a no-brainer. Yes, we got a taste toward the end of the season and during the playoffs, but come on: That wasn’t enough to satisfy the throngs of fans (even the ones outside Seattle, but don’t tell anyone) who want to see Zakuani get back to what he was before: the most exciting young player in the game. Period.

Another offseason should get him closer. He showed flashes down the stretch in 2012 and was dangerous in the second leg of the conference final against LA, but a completely healthy Zakuani back on the flank for the Sounders? Yes, please.

Then we can finally stop reading all the rehab stories and start talking about the reasons we loved him in the first place. Doubtful that any other MLS team is thrilled with that prospect, but there’s not a true soccer fan who wouldn’t marvel at him all over again.