CHESTER, Pa. – Through the first four games of the 2013 season, Conor Casey played a total of just 35 minutes as questions about whether his career was winding to a close hovered over him.
The Philadelphia Union striker responded by shaking off his hamstring injury, starting 25 of the next 30 games, scoring 10 goals and being named a finalist for the MLS Comeback Player of the Year award.
Now, after playing a total of just 19 minutes through the first four games of the 2014 season, Casey hopes history can repeat itself.
“Last year was pretty similar,” Casey told MLSsoccer.com following Wednesday’s training session. “I got injured during the preseason or just after the preseason, and it took me a little while to get back. But I’m confident I’ll be able to have the same kind of season that I did last year.”
Casey, who pulled a calf muscle midway through the preseason, is now back at full strength and made his season debut during last week’s 1-1 draw with the Montreal Impact at PPL Park, coming off the bench late in the game.
And although he was disappointed that he couldn’t help the team break out of its offensive slump – the Union have scored just one goal in each of their first four games – Casey said that just getting back on the field was “definitely nice.”
The hard part now might be finding a regular place in the lineup as the Union have built their 4-3-3 formation around Jack McInerney playing in the center forward role.
“With the additions we made, our roster is a lot stronger than it was last year,” Casey said. “And it’s a great thing to have. It’s on each and every one of us to perform when given the chance.”
With Union manager John Hackworth revealing that starting winger Cristian Maidana is questionable for Saturday’s game vs. the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park (5 pm ET, MLS Live) with a bruised calf, there’s a chance Casey could slide into the center forward role with McInerney going out to the wing.
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No matter the formation, getting the chance to play with McInerney up top, as he did for much of last season, would be a welcome opportunity for Casey – and a move he thinks could help the Union start putting some more balls into the back of the net.
“It was definitely a good pairing,” Casey said. “He had a number of goals, as did I. So hopefully this year it will be more of the same.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.