COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – As if the Colorado Rapids’ two wins in their first two matches didn’t give fans of the burgundy enough to cheer about, Wednesday morning saw the highly anticipated return of star striker Conor Casey to the practice field. It seems like a sign that his full return could be just around the corner, and offers his team another massive weapon on attack.
“It’s fantastic to see him out on the ground,” head coach Oscar Pareja told MLSsoccer.com after the session. “It’s great to see him be part of the training and taking part in the activities.”
FLASHBACK: Casey puts Rapids up 1-0
Casey looked aggressive at points throughout the hour-long scrimmage Wednesday morning, frequently fighting for balls and looking to get involved in plays. Casey donned an orange non-contact jersey in his first full practice since rupturing his Achilles tendon last July, and afterwards said he felt comfortable despite the long layoff.
Of course, there’s still plenty of work to be done to return to game action.
“Obviously I’m still building up strength in [the tendon] and I’ve got to work on the endurance because the movements are a little bit different,” Casey told MLSsoccer.com. “I’ve just got to get to the point where I’m not thinking about it.”
One of the bigger challenges in getting Casey back on the field will be returning him back to match fitness. Toward the end of the scrimmage the big No. 9 looked a bit tired, but as the 30-year-old explained, that’s part of the rehabilitation process.
“Doing fitness outside of the field is a lot different than actually playing in a game,” Casey said, explaining that he’s concentrating day-to-day work. “Just practicing every day and building up and getting that game-like fitness in.”
One date on the schedule that could be circled for Casey’s return is the April 7 Rocky Mountain Cup showdown against Real Salt Lake in Utah.
“I’m just going to play it by ear,” Casey said. “It’d be nice to be fit by [the RSL game], but I’m not going to rush it. I’m just going to see how my body does. The team’s doing really well now so I feel confident in taking my time in making sure I’m 100 percent.”
Offered Pareja: “I’m not thinking about [a target date] that much. I just want to see him improve every day.”
Casey is expected to miss Sunday’s clash against the Red Bulls in New York (4 pm ET; ESPN, ESPN Deportes), however, there is still an outside chance he may be able to play the following Sunday against Chicago at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.