Gamble pays off: Philadelphia Union reaping rewards of rejuvenated Conor Casey

Conor Casey

Photo Credit: 
USA Today Sports

CHESTER, Pa. – Heading into the 2013 season, Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth had a feeling Conor Casey would be able to shake off the injuries that had plagued him for a couple of years and regain the form that previously made him one of the league’s top strikers.

So far, the Philadelphia Union manager has been proven correct.

In 1,086 minutes this season, the 31-year-old veteran has seven goals and four assists, putting him on pace for his best statistical season in his seven-year MLS career.

“With Conor, I just sit back and smile,” Hackworth said. “No disrespect to anyone else in the league, but I watch a lot of games and I like the fact that Conor Casey is on our team. The things he’s doing I think he’s doing better than other guys in the league.”

READ: Like/Don't Like - Wondolowski's tear, backup 'keepers step up, and Dallas' slide

When Casey was acquired by the Union in December, he came with a checkered injury history that included a ruptured Achilles’ tendon. He then got off to an inauspicious start in Philly, playing a total of six minutes through the first three games of the season because of a pulled hamstring.

But from there, the burly striker quickly established himself as the kind of dangerous aerial presence the Union never before had. And in recent weeks, with leading scorer Jack McInerney gone with the US national team, he’s stepped up his game even more, playing three straight 90-minute games for the first time since 2010. He contributed two goals and two assists during that span.

It’s been a revival that’s been fun to witness for his teammates – and one that is even somewhat unexpected.

“To be honest, when we added Conor, everyone was excited knowing he was coming off of an injury – but it was tough to gauge where he’d be at,” Union right back Sheanon Williams said. “He’s come out and has been really, really good for us. I think he’s done everything the coaching staff has asked for and more. We were happy to add him and we’re happy he’s having such a good year.”

READ: Fabinho brings a much-needed left-footed presence to Union

In large part due to Casey’s offensive production, the Union are tied for the league lead with 32 goals. And through the first 20 games of the season, Casey, McInerney and Sebastien Le Toux have combined for 20 goals and 13 assists.

Because of the big numbers they’re all putting up, was Hackworth upset none of his top players were named to the MLS All-Star team?

“We certainly have guys that could have made a case for being All-Stars – but at the same time, the All-Star Game is interesting because it’s a popularity contest,” Hackworth said. “I think about the Sons of Ben chanting during the game that nobody likes us. So it really doesn’t have anything to do with respect.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.