COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Once a captain for the Colorado Rapids as a player, Conor Casey will now lead his hometown club as interim head coach, following the announcement Wednesday that Anthony Hudson was relieved of his duties with the club.
“I expect Conor to rally the troops,” Rapids executive vice president and GM Padraig Smith told reporters of the decision to name Casey to the position. “I think he believes there’s a team there that’s capable of winning games.”
For Casey, a Denver native who made 119 regular-season appearances for the Rapids and stands as the club’s all-time leading scorer, it’s an opportunity he takes great personal pride in.
“I’m extremely proud,” Casey said. “I’ve been a part of this club since I was in high school training here as a kid. I’ve played here and coached here now so I know this club inside and out. I’ve been a part of it for a long time. I know its strengths and weaknesses. So I’m very excited to be in a position to lead this group of players and be able to represent the club and show the fans what they want to see.”
Currently the only winless team remaining in MLS league play this season, Casey’s first duty will be guiding Colorado to what has been an elusive first win of 2019.
“I know the fanbase is so thirsty for success,” Casey continued. “I was part of a small part of that back in 2010 and everybody in this club wants to get those feelings back. I’m now in a position to help us start to win games, get momentum and get the excitement back for the fans back in the stadium.”
Casey, like his former teammate and manager Pablo Mastroeni before him, believes that the players on the field are the instruments for that success.
“I know from being a player as well that players win games and they’re the most important part of the team,” he explained. “It’s important for those guys in the locker room whether they’re an elder statesman or a younger guy to push the group forward.”
As to what Colorado would look like tactically moving forward, Casey shied away from disclosing specifics. But he referred to his style as “aggressive” and “forward thinking,” in line with an attacking style of play Smith defined in recent years as “The Rapids Way.”
The Rapids have shown an improved attack this season, averaging 1.33 goals per game and spearheaded by Kei Kamara’s five goals in the nine matches Colorado have played this season.
But it has come at the expense of being open defensively. The Rapids are also the league’s worst defense, having conceded 24 goals in that same timeframe.
Finding a balance between scoring goals while not compromising on defense is a balance that Casey will hope to find in games and address on the training pitch.
“Some of it is mentality and personnel. Some of it is just individual play,” Casey said of the team’s defensive issues. “There’s a lot of things that go into that. It starts with training on the field every day and continuing to address some of those concepts. It’s also about individual player responsibility and making plays on the field.”
Smith called Casey’s position a “genuine interim tag” and gave no hard timeline on when the Rapids would fill the role permanently. But the Rapids GM emphasized his confidence in Casey and what remains of the team’s coaching staff for the indefinite future moving forward.
“I think one of the great things for me is how much he wanted this,” Smith said. “There’s a mentality and character that really shines through. He’s soaked up as much as he can by talking to other coaches and also through courses. He’s really tried to develop his knowledge as a coach. I know we’ve got someone there who is absolutely committed to doing the right things for this group.”