After playing him sparingly for much of the season, Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth is prepared to unleash Conor Casey.
So far, so good.
Saturday night at the StubHub Center, Casey netted his first two goals of the year to lead the Union to a convincing 3-0 victory over host Chivas USA.
“It’s fantastic for him,” Hackworth said. “I’m so happy for him. I’ve probably been a little tougher on him than I should have been, to be fair. He probably deserved a shot earlier in the season to have more minutes. We challenged him, and he certainly answered those challenges for sure.”
Casey enjoyed a career revival last season, scoring 10 goals and being named a finalist for MLS Comeback Player of the Year. But the injuries that had plagued him during his final couple of seasons in Colorado reared their ugly ahead again at the beginning of 2014 as Casey was sidelined with a calf injury.
And even after returning to full health, the 32-year-old striker couldn’t seem to find a steady place in the team’s rotation.
But against Chivas, Casey made the most of his fourth start of the year, scoring on a first-half penalty kick and a second-half diving header.
“The PK I wanted to take and luckily Mo allowed me to do that to kind of get the year kicked off since I hadn’t scored yet,” Casey said. “It was nice of him to do that, and I was happy to be able to put it away.”
Opening his 2014 scoring account certainly seemed to help the striker’s confidence. In the 66th minute, he made a great run to finish a perfectly placed cross from Cristian “Chaco” Maidana, who later added the team’s third goal.
“Chaco put a great ball in and put it on a platter for me,” Casey said. “I was happy to be in the right place.”
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With Chivas doing little on the attacking front, Casey’s brace proved more than enough for the Union to earn a much-needed West Coast win after suffering two straight blowout losses.
Now, Casey hopes the Union can win another one when they host Vancouver next weekend, saying that “we need to make sure going into the [World Cup] break that we follow this performance with another good performance.”
And Hackworth hopes his veteran striker can lead them there while adding to his goal total.
“I think he still has the quality to be a goal-scorer in this league,” the Union manager said. “And you saw that tonight.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.