WAYNE, Pa. – Conor Casey remembers walking through the tunnel at PPL Park and immediately hearing the heckling.
He loved it.
“Playing for a different team, it was great to come here because that’s the kind of atmosphere you want in games,” said Casey, who played six seasons with the Colorado Rapids, before being scooped up by the Philadelphia Union in the 2012 Re-Entry Draft. “I’m excited for them to be cheering for me instead of against me this year.”
If Casey produces as he had for most of his sterling career, he should have no problem inspiring cheers in Chester. The new Union striker and former US national team player is the Rapids’ all-time leading scorer with 50 goals and led Colorado to the MLS Cup in 2010.
Admittedly, Casey was hampered by injuries, including a torn Achilles’ heel, over the past two seasons. But during his first week with the Union, the 31-year-old said he feels healthy and that he’s excited to have a full preseason to get fit for the first time “in a couple of years.”
“It’s a great opportunity for me personally to help the team and get some new life,” Casey said. “It’s a great group of guys and I know they have high goals for a young team. I’m excited to be here and integrate myself with the guys.”
It remains to be seen how Casey fits in, but Union manager John Hackworth has indicated he’ll likely keep a 4-3-3 formation with the possibility of Casey being the target man alongside Jack McInerney, the club’s leading scorer in 2012, and fellow offseason acquisition Sébastien Le Toux, the club’s leading scorer in 2010 and 2011.
Casey knows that has the potential to be a lethal attacking trio.
“Jack has a lot of pace and is a very skillful young guy,” Casey said. “And Seba’s had a lot of success and I know he’s very happy to be back. I think it gives us a lot of different options, a lot of different looks. It’s up to us to cause the other teams problems.”
Casey said he didn’t really know any players on the Union before arriving in Philly – with the exception of fellow 2000 Olympian Chris Albright and former youth national teammate Brian Carroll – but was immediately embraced by his new teammates.
It also quickly dawned on him some of the team’s top players were still in grade school back when he made his professional debut in 2000.
“It’s kind of strange being one of the older guys,” Casey said. “I don’t really feel like it. But that’s a good thing. We have a lot of youth and I think that will definitely be on our side.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.