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Philadelphia Union forced to plot Vancouver game plan without "vital" target man Conor Casey

CHESTER, Pa. – Considering Conor Casey has played four straight 90-minute games for the first time in three years, you might think the Philadelphia Union’s 31-year-old striker is due for a break.

But with Casey having a break imposed on him for Saturday’s game against the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE) – he’s suspended because of yellow-card accumulation – Union manager John Hackworth is scratching his head trying to figure out a way to replace him.

“The Casey one’s going to be tough, because we’ve truly established the way we play not solely around him but around what he gives us,” Hackworth said. “Probably the only guy on our roster similar to Conor is Aaron Wheeler and Aaron has done well, too. So it gives us some options tactically to try to figure out how we’re going to match up against Vancouver.”

Saturday’s game will mark the first time Casey will be out since March 16, when he was nursing an early-season hamstring injury, and the first time he won’t start since June 1. The former Colorado Rapids star has started the last seven games for Philly, scoring four goals and logging two assists in that span.

Hackworth, meanwhile, has loved the rhythm Casey has found over the past two months and isn’t at all concerned with all the minutes the sometimes injury-prone veteran has been racking up.

“I like the fact that Conor has done a really good job recovering from those tough minutes after playing as much as he has,” Hackworth said. “With the schedule as it is now, we have basically a week in between games and that means Conor has had plenty of time to go through the recovery process.

“We hope we can keep him in that same form. We have a long way to go in this league and we know he’s a vital part of our team.”

Hackworth didn’t give any clues as to how we will adjust the lineup without Casey, except to say that Wheeler is a “great option” and that leading scorer Jack McInerney will need to adjust to a “different role” with his partner at forward suspended.

McInerney – who missed three straight games while with the US national team before returning for last week's 0-0 draw with Portland – hasn’t scored since June 1 and will have even more pressure on him to find the back of the net without Casey to offer assistance.

“I don’t think Jack, in any way, shape or form, is having a bad run of games,” Hackworth said. “He’s been finding the back of the net every time he’s on the field in training. I hope he can do it this Saturday for sure.”

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