Player Name: Conor Casey
Stats: 10 goals, 5 assists this season
Minutes played: 2201
Appearances: 25 starts in 31 appearances
There was an abundance of questions when the Union acquired Conor Casey during the 2013 Re-Entry Draft. "Is he fully healed from the ruptured Achilles tendon he suffered in 2011?" "Where will he fit with the depth at forward?" "Can he even contribute?"
11 months later, the answer to every one of those questions has been answered. Conor Casey was everything the Union could have hoped for - and more. While other players with a history of injuries that the Union have picked up either played sparingly (Bakary Soumare) or never at all (Chris Agorsor), Casey turned in a solid season and was, in the estimation of many of the Philadelphia fans and media alike, the MVP of the Union's season.
Not only did Casey produce numbers on his own (10 goals, 5 assists), but his mere presence opened up the field for Jack McInerney to score 12 goals and get a call to Jürgen Klinsmann's US National Team Camp back in July. Casey provided the size and strength that prevented the Union to from being pushed around by brutish centerbacks like Sporting Kansas City's Aurelien Colin - quite frankly the Union never had that type of player up top.
Casey's finest games came against the Union's biggest rivals. He had two goals on June 23rd as the Union hosted New York Red Bulls as well as two more when the Union hosted DC United on August 10th. Red Bulls were missing midfielder Tim Cahill and (more importantly) centerback Jamison Olave, and Casey abused the makeshift New York back line, scoring a header off of a Sheanon Williams cross in the sixth minute and cleaning up a loose rebound in the sixty-third minute against the ten men New York had left on the field. When DC United came to town a little over a month later Casey stepped up and scored a brace, first cleaning up a rebound that fell right to his feet off of a Sebastien Le Toux header and then bashing one off of his shin past Bill Hamid off of a beautiful cross from Fabinho.
Casey did miss time this season, only playing 6 minutes in the first three matches as he was recuperating from a hamstring injury suffered in training camp, however considering he played in one less match with Philadelphia this year (31) than he did with Colorado over the past two (32), the questions regarding his health should be laid to rest. The only question left is will Casey be in Philadelphia next season? He took a $225,000 a year pay cut to come here, and his numbers and solid play on a team that was lacking much - if any - creativity in the midfield should see him in line for a pay increase the next time his contract is up for renegotiation.