In last year's trip to Chicago, Conor Casey popped up out of nowhere with a stoppage-time equalizer to take the Colorado Rapids into the two-week World Cup break in good spirits.
This year, with another two-week break looming following a 2-0 loss at the Chicago Fire on Saturday, the Rapids were unable to find anything significant to match an aggressive and confident home side. In a game that the Rapids were unable to control, Casey’s absence was keenly felt.
“Before the game, I wouldn’t have said we were too tired, but we weren’t mentally sharp,” midfielder Jeff Larentowicz told MLSsoccer.com. “Conor’s the type of guy that is going to pull out a goal against the run of play. A lot of guys have stepped up since he got injured, but I don’t know that we have that goalscorer [without him] that is going to get the breakthrough.”
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It was perhaps the first time since Casey went down with a season-ending Achilles injury against the Seattle Sounders on July 16 that he has been so sorely missed. In the six league games that followed Seattle and before the trip to Chicago, the Rapids had scored 14 goals, never scoring fewer than two goals per game with eight different players tallying in that period.
Saturday night, though, was different.
Once the Rapids had gone behind 2-0 at the half, they desperately needed to get a goal from somewhere — and despite using four forwards at different times, they created few chances.
The Rapids now have some much-needed time off after playing five games in 15 days. They next visit the LA Galaxy on Sept. 9, a few days before a home tilt against Santos Laguna in the CONCACAF Champions League. The two games mark the start of another busy month as the Rapids play six times in 19 days.
Casey will be absent until next season, and the Rapids will hope they get the production they got for most of August rather than the weary display on Saturday night. Head coach Gary Smith remains confident they will.
“If you look statistically at what we have been able to achieve without him," Smith told MLSsoccer.com, "I think everybody would be delighted in where we are at and what we are doing."