Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By JOEL HOOVER
The Philadelphia Union’s recent stretch of just one defeat in their past eight matches has been helped in a major way by the play of forward Conor Casey. In that time, he has scored five goals and dished out two assists, all while doing a fair share of it alone up front in the absence of fellow forward Jack McInerney.
The Union will need to find someone to make up for that lack of production because Casey is set to miss Saturday’s match vs. Vancouver after picking up a yellow card vs. Portland last week. The yellow in the 0-0 draw vs. the Timbers put Casey over the top, earning him a one-match suspension.
The temporary loss of Casey is a “tough one” for the Union to cope with, according to manager John Hackworth, especially given Casey’s influence on their style of play.
“We’ve truly established the way we play not solely around him, but what he gives us,” Hackworth said. He also said that the only other player who is similar to Casey on the roster with the way he plays and the role he can play up front is tall defender/forward Aaron Wheeler.
Casey has tallied seven goals and four assists thus far for the Union, his best return since his 13 goals and six assists in 2010 when he was with the Colorado Rapids. In addition to his goalscoring exploits, the 31-year-old is coming off four straight games where he completed the full 90 minutes. It was his longest such stretch as a Union player after struggling through some early season injuries and trying to find a place in the squad.
With Casey out, Hackworth noted that the Union will have adjustments to make up front ahead of the Vancouver game. Though he mentioned that Wheeler is the only player who could play the way Casey does up front, Hackworth left the door open for tactical adjustments to the starting eleven.
“It gives us some options tactically to try to figure out how we’re going to match up against Vancouver,” Hackworth said. “Losing Conor is going to be a tough one, but it might be an opportunity for us to play a little differently and get some other guys on the field.”
Here are some more notes from the Union’s weekly press conference:
HACKWORTH NOT CONCERNED ABOUT MCINERNEY’S FORM
Casey’s absence this coming Saturday may be an opportunity for fellow forward Jack McInerney to get himself back among the goals for the Union.
After shooting to the top of the Major League Soccer goal charts with 10 league goals this year and 12 in all competitions, McInerney has since lost his lead in the race for the Golden Boot while away with the U.S. national team for the Gold Cup. The 20-year-old has also gone his last four league matches without a goal, including a very quiet game Saturday against Portland in his first game back from the Gold Cup.
Despite his blanks in their recent matches, John Hackworth believes there are other aspects of the game that McInerney is doing well and contributing to the team with.
“(McInerney) may have not gotten on the score sheet last week, but he had a really good second half, and he did a lot of work for us that opened up a lot of opportunities for other guys,” Hackworth said. “He did a lot of the work, and as long as Jack does the work like that, then our coaching staff has no problem with it.”
Hackworth is also not buying the notion that McInerney is having a “bad run of games” or “dip in form”, with such play in other aspects of his game one main reason. Another is that McInerney went about three weeks without playing a competitive match while he was with the national team, as he did not see any playing time in their friendly with Guatemala or at the Gold Cup.
“When you’re a goalscorer in this sport, you’re going to go through times where you’re hot and you’re going to go through times when you’re not getting (goals), and that’s just normal,” Hackworth said, also mentioning that McInerney’s been finding the net with regularity in training.
“As long as he continues to play well, that’s what will be most important for us.”
FABINHO PROVIDING VERSATILITY ON THE LEFT
Last month’s signing of defender Fabio “Fabinho” Alves was expected to give the Union some depth at left back behind Raymon Gaddis. But after making two straight appearances off the substitute’s bench as a left-sided midfielder, the Brazilian is starting to show his ability to slide in as both a defensive or attacking option.
“(Fabinho) playing at left mid the past couple of games has certainly given us a boost when he’s come on, and he’s done well,” Hackworth said of the new acquisition, who he still deems as a “true left back” by nature.
The free agent signing left his mark right away on his debut against Chivas USA, dropping in a cross from the left for Conor Casey to slide in the Union’s third goal in their 3-1 comeback victory. With two right footed players in Danny Cruz and Gaddis occupying the midfield and defensive sides on the left, the team considers it a big help to have a versatile left-footed player on that side as well.
“Whether he’s in the (matchday) 18 or in the starting lineup, he gives you that ability to make a couple moves with one player,” Hackworth said.
- Saturday will also see the return of midfielder Keon Daniel to the Union after Trinidad & Tobago’s elimination at the Gold Cup. Hackworth said it’s “great” to have Daniel back because of his ability as a possession player, which he believes will add to the already good competition for places in Saturday’s squad.
- The Union travel to Vancouver’s BC Place Saturday for their next league match, which Hackworth says is a difficult place to go because of Vancouver’s unbeaten home record, active crowd, and the surface/roof of the stadium itself.
What do you think of these notes? What is the Union’s best option for dealing with Conor Casey’s absence this weekend? Is Jack McInerney’s recent mini-drought in front of goal a real concern? Should Fabinho get opportunities in the starting lineup?
Share your thoughts below.