Conor Casey's return to Philadelphia a quicker trip than expected

CHESTER, Pa.—As the fans who once adored him chanted his name, Columbus Crew SC striker Conor Casey was excited to enter the game in the 74th minute of Wednesday’s game vs. the Philadelphia Union.

That excitement quickly turned into bitter frustration as Casey was sent off with a controversial straight red card just three minutes later – an ejection that proved critical as 10-man Columbus dropped a 3-2 decision to Philly at Talen Energy Stadium.

“That’s not a foul and I get a red card,” Casey told MLSsoccer.com. “So it’s pretty puzzling … It’s a one-goal game with 10 minutes left and someone decides to fabricate something and then we’re down a man. It’s not OK”

The play in question did indeed look mostly benign as Casey – a key member of the Union from 2013-15 – went in for a challenge on Union right back Keegan Rosenberry but appeared to try to hold up.

Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter said he spoke to the ref about the call but wanted to keep “what was said private,” adding that he’ll “look at it again and see what it was and then go from there.” Regardless of that one moment, Berhalter was disappointed with the performance of his team throughout the contest.

“I would categorize tonight as a lost opportunity,” Berhalter said. “I mean, we had the chance to come to the conference leaders and really show what we are about. And I don’t think we did that. It’s disappointing because I think highly of that group. I think highly of the guys in the locker room and I know we had more in us than we showed tonight.”

No one was more disappointed than Casey, who called the Philly fans “amazing” after he was greeted to a warm reception upon entering the contest.

“It was a great atmosphere and great to see the guys,” said Casey, who scored 21 goals for Philly over the last three seasons. “But it was a tough result obviously … We came here to win. We came here to move the ball around and make it very difficult on them. We came out and got a lead, which was nice but unfortunately we weren’t able to sustain that for a whole game.”

Berhalter agreed that not being able to keep the pressure on was a tough pill to swallow, even though Ola Kamara continued his hot streak with his fourth goal in two games and teenager Cristian Martinez opened his MLS account in his league debut.

The Crew SC boss also praised the first-place Union for punishing his own team by winning the majority of the duels.

“I think Philadelphia is the good example of the hunger [you need],” Berhalter said. “It’s the hunger if you want to be at the top.”