Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Casey's improved play gives Union a boost

Union forward Conor Casey laughed when the question was posed to him after a 1-0 win Sunday over visiting D.C. United.

Connor Casey and the Union take on the Red Bulls. The Union are winless at New York’s home stadium.
Connor Casey and the Union take on the Red Bulls. The Union are winless at New York’s home stadium.Read more

Union forward Conor Casey laughed when the question was posed to him after a 1-0 win Sunday over visiting D.C. United.

The 33-year-old Casey, after his usual postgame ice bath, was asked what in the world he was doing playing 90 minutes.

"I don't know," he said. "I do know it feels good."

Casey, who had a groin injury in the beginning of the season but said he has felt healthy for quite a while, entered the game having played 115 minutes all season.

The last time he played an entire game was July 19, 2014, in a 1-1 draw at the Chicago Fire.

There is no question that Casey provided a major spark against a D.C. United team that fell to 6-2-3 with the loss.

"Conor was the one who set the tone from the beginning of the game, winning a couple of tough battles, and they knew they were in for a game," Union coach Jim Curtin said, referring to D.C. United. "He gives you that physicality."

Casey had one goal nullified by a hand ball, and late in the first half he shot from close range at keeper Bill Hamid.

Not the fleetest of foot, Casey adds a physical presence, and at his best he can wear down defenders.

He had 10 goals in his first season with the Union, in 2013 and added eight last year. This season he has not hit the back of the net in eight games, totaling just 195 minutes.

If Casey keeps sniping around the goal as he did against United, then that goal drought should end.

And if the Union (2-7-3) are going to get back in the Major League Soccer playoff race, Casey will likely have to play a big role.

He won't be expected to go 90 minutes each night, but if Casey is looking for more rest, he shouldn't be running around the pitch like a 22-year-old.

"It is no secret that he is getting older and hasn't played a ton of minutes," Curtin said. "It is the sign of a true professional when your number is called, you give an effort like that."

Now the challenge won't get any easier. On Sunday the Union will visit the New York Red Bulls (4-1-5).

"They are big rivals and they are on the other side of the standings. We are certainly aware of that," Casey said. "We had a big win on Sunday and now we have to get ready for another rivalry."

Casey said he would be ready, even if he has to go 90 minutes. Truth be told, the Union have to watch his minutes, although Casey won't lobby for less playing time.

"I was happy to get the minutes," he said. "I was happier for the win."

Notable. The Union will begin U.S. Open Cup play June 16 at home against the Rochester Rhinos or the Harrisburg City Islanders. Both play in the United Soccer League. . . . Union forward C.J. Sapong has been cleared to return by MLS and practiced with the team. He is eligible to play Sunday at New York.

Union at Red Bulls

 Union on the road: 0-4-2; Red Bulls at home: 3-0-2.

Goals for: Union 11; Red Bulls 14.

Goals against: Union 21; Red Bulls, 9.

Last game: On Sunday, the Union (2-7-3) beat visiting D.C. United, 1-0. The Red Bulls (4-2-5) played host Dallas to a scoreless draw on May 15.

Outlook: Forward Bradley Wright-Phillips leads the Red Bulls with five goals and shares the team lead with three assists. . . . Red Bulls midfielder Sal Zizzo is out with a leg injury, while defender Ronald Zubar is doubtful with a quad injury. Defender Matt Miazga, who has started eight games, is also out, with the U-20 team at the World Cup. . . . Luis Robles has played all 10 games in goal and has a 0.90 GAA. . . . Union centerback Maurice Edu won't play because of yellow card accumulation after receiving one in second-half stoppage time against D.C. United. . . . Zach Pfeffer, who had the game-winning goal vs. D.C. United after coming off the bench, is among the most improved Union players. . . . Look for Brian Sylvestre to earn his third consecutive start in goal. Sylvestre wasn't forced to make any saves last game, but he was always in good position. . . . Defender Ray Gaddis (ankle) is questionable. If he is not able to go, Fabinho will likely take his spot at outside back.

- Marc Narducci