COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Conor Casey has been the face of the Colorado Rapids franchise since he was acquired from Toronto FC in April 2007, and he was a big reason why the Rapids hoisted the MLS Cup in 2010.
But with a 2013 option looming for the team’s all-time leading goalscorer following a season where he produced only two goals and battled numerous injuries, plenty of attention will be focused on Casey’s future, and there’s no guarantee that he will be back for his seventh season playing in his hometown.
It seems that Casey’s pricey option for 2013 will not be exercised and the Rapids will look to bring back the 31-year-old on a less expensive deal.
“It’s a situation where we’ve got to sit down with Conor and figure out what he wants to do,” Rapids technical director Paul Bravo told MLSsoccer.com last week. “Conor has no bigger fan at the club than me.”
But despite his recent injury battles, there’s little question that Casey, even with his advancing age and decreased productivity in 2011 and 2012, is still the face of the club. The 31-year-old striker was raised in Denver and went to Denver’s South High School, and leads the franchise with 50 career goals in a burgundy uniform and has his face plastered all around Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
“In this league, when you have limitations in the budget, in the roster [so] the top guys when they’re missing, they’re affecting the team,” said Colorado head coach Oscar Pareja, who declined to comment on Casey’s future while the team evaluates the process. “It was a difficult year for him for sure.”
Casey was shut down for the final three weeks of the season and hasn’t practiced in more than a month. After rupturing his Achilles in July 2011 and returning in April, Casey battled nagging injuries all season long, playing in only 18 of a possible 26 games (often as a substitute) and was never able to consistently stay on the field.
Now, Bravo, Pareja and Casey are faced with the tricky decision of how to handle an aging hometown icon whose production has slipped in recent years. Soon enough, Casey’s future will crystallize, but only time will tell if it’s in Colorado or somewhere else.
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.