Casey Townsend is still adjusting to life as a professional. But based on his performance this preseason for Chivas USA, it seems pretty clear that his scoring touch will translate to MLS.
After overcoming a nagging hamstring strain that felled him earlier this preseason, the fifth overall pick in January’s SuperDraft has begun to show flashes of the talent that made him a prolific goal poacher at the University of Maryland.
Townsend has gone on a scoring tear this preseason, netting goals in three of his last four appearances and scoring four overall. Even as he deals with the transition between the college game and MLS, he is displaying the killer instincts that all strikers strive for.
“I’m feeling good. I’m feeling confident,” Townsend told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Tuesday from Portland, where Chivas are participating in a four-team tournament. “I’ve been getting minutes here and there and I’ve been scoring goals, so hopefully I can keep it going and hope that we can get a few wins in the preseason.”
On Monday, the ever-focused Townsend received a valuable lesson in the Rojiblancos’ 2-0 defeat to Swedish league power AIK. He went 27 minutes against the Allsvenskan side, who he believed employed a more direct style of play than any opponent that Chivas had faced to date. This did not limit his effectiveness as he combined with Cesar Romero and trialist Alan Sousa for a dangerous scoring chance in the 87th minute.
Still, it’s likely to be a season of lessons as he handles the jump from college soccer.
“It was a different experience and it’s good for me to play in these types of games, so hopefully I can learn a lot from this,” said Townsend. “It was a little bit of an eye opener playing a team from Sweden. They played a lot different than MLS competition.
“It was just the style of play more than anything. They were all good technically and they liked to press, so it’s just getting used to playing that first touch a little quicker and having ideas in your head before you get the ball.”
Townsend may get the chance to showcase what he’s learned sooner than initially expected, as recent roster moves could thrust him into a regular spot in Chivas’ rotation. With Alejandro Moreno likely to play a greater role in the midfield than up top and Chris Cortez released on Sunday, Townsend could be considered the second forward behind starter Juan Pablo Ángel.
There are no guarantees, however. To earn and keep that spot, he must best fellow newcomer Romero, who won a contract with the Rojiblancos after going on his own scoring tear this preseason.
“I think that both he and Cesar have done well throughout preseason,” head coach Robin Fraser told MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “It’s a bit of a learning curve for young players, but I feel like they’ve both come a long way and they’re both options.”
Ultimately, the plucky rookie is unconcerned about his place on the depth chart. Ever the goal poacher, Townsend is just looking for a single opportunity to show his worth.
“That’s up to the manager, obviously I’d love to play so that I can help the team win,” said Townsend. “I’m hoping that I can push for some time and make an impact so that I can contribute, but if that’s not the case, then I’ll just keep working hard in training so I can get some time down the road.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.