CHESTER, Pa. – As Conor Casey struggled to find minutes and goals through the first three months of the season, some people thought the Philadelphia Union striker’s career was winding to a close.
Turns out, he’s only getting started this season.
“I think so many people were feeling like, ‘Hey, he’s at the end of his career and maybe he’s not as good as he was,’” Union manager John Hackworth said. “But with the last two games, he’s shown that he still has a lot of goals left in him.”
Hackworth admitted that he had a “lot of tough conversations” with Casey in which he challenged the former MLS Cup MVP to step up for a team that was, up until very recently, in desperate need for consistent scoring. And, according to Hackworth, Casey has “taken that to heart and done everything we could have asked for in the last two games.”
When asked about those conversations, Casey said he simply needed to prove to Hackworth in training that he warranted a place in the starting lineup after dealing with an early-season calf injury.
“I wasn’t given a lot of minutes,” he said. “For a player, you just have to keep working hard and keep trying to show yourself in training. I think I was able to do that, and I’m happy he finally gave me a chance again.”
His Union teammates certainly know how good Casey can be when given the opportunity. Last year, the burly striker also got hot in June after a slow start, finishing the season with 10 goals.
And, just like last year, Casey is showing how proficient he is in the air, with two of his four goals coming off of his head.
“The thing about Conor is we just need to provide him with good service,” Union defender Sheanon Williams said. “He can finish a lot of goals for us if we give him good service. That’s something our coaching staff and us a team have harped on. As you can see, if we give him the ball in front of goal, he can finish with anybody in this league.”
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In Saturday’s thrilling, back-and-forth affair with Vancouver, Casey did more than just finish off crosses with his head. His second goal of the game – the one that put the Union ahead 3-2 – was a low-driven shot from outside of the box that snuck inside the post. And, for the first time this season, Casey put in a full 90-minute shift with Hackworth saying that he was “one of the hardest working players” on the field.
For Casey, all of that is proof that his career is not even close to being finished.
“I’ve still got a couple of years left,” he said. “And I’ll keep trying to show it on the field.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.