HARRISON, N.J. – The frustration was evident after the Philadelphia Union lost their fifth straight game at Red Bull Arena on Saturday.
But one bright spot did came from yet another loss to the rival New York Red Bulls: Conor Casey.
The veteran forward had only played six total minutes in a Union uniform before Saturday’s game, but quickly made his presence felt when he scored two minutes after entering the match.
Let’s take a closer look at Casey’s performance –- and more -– in this week’s edition of the “Inside Doop.”
Three thoughts from Saturday’s game
1. For much of the contest, the Union struggled to hold the ball up and match up against the Red Bulls’ imposing center backs. Enter Casey, the kind of physical player who loves to knock heads in the air. His game-tying goal, a header off of a Sheanon Williams’ long throw-in, showed his aerial ability. And even though the Red Bulls countered with a goal of their own from Thierry Henry to pick up the 2-1 win, Casey gave Union fans a glimpse of what he’s able to do.
2. Let’s not forget the assist on the goal. Williams has a unique ability to reach the box on his throw-ins, which has come in handy for the Union over the past couple of years. But until Saturday, no Union player had ever directly headed a Williams throw-in into the net. Having a big target like Casey should make Williams’ big throws, which almost act as set pieces, even more dangerous.
3. While the goal was impressive, the Union once again struggled to create much offensively and garner momentum in the midfield. For the game, the Union got only two shots on target, controlled just 40 percent of the possession and completed 171 fewer passes than the Red Bulls. The club has been getting hammered like this on the stat sheet all season, which is certainly a troubling trend.
Three questions for the week ahead
1. Star Brazilian José Kléberson, who was brought in on loan as part of the deal to dump Freddy Adu, will be introduced to fans and media at a Brazilian steakhouse in Horsham on Wednesday. But the big question is will he be ready for Saturday’s game in Columbus. Union manager John Hackworth has said he’ll ease the two-time World Cup veteran into the lineup, but at this point it looks like the midfield could quickly use some help.
2. One other player that could help the midfield is Gabe Farfan, who started the season opener as a winger but has since played just 26 minutes because of a hamstring strain. If Farfan gets healthy and Kléberson is able to get integrated, the midfield could look fairly different in Columbus. At the very least, Hackworth will have some more cover both in the midfield and on the backline.
3. Now that Casey is healthy, Hackworth will also have to figure out his striker situation. Sebastien Le Toux and Jack McInerney have been the starting pair for the past three games but still have work to do meshing with each other. Hackworth was asked after Saturday’s game if Casey would continue to come off the bench but didn’t offer a revealing answer. One thing is for sure, however: If Casey and Antoine Hoppenot both come off the bench at the same time, as they did Saturday, that’s instant offense few teams can match.
Stat of the week
Before Casey’s goal, it had been 35 months since a Union player scored in a league match at Red Bull Arena.
Quote of the week
“There are no superstitions or anything about playing here. We can beat them if we play well. And we didn’t play well. So we deserved to lose.” – Sheanon Williams
Player of the week
Hackworth said no one on his team executed well but Casey certainly made the most of his 29 minutes on the field and was the team’s most impactful player. Perhaps had he played more, the Union could have even scored another goal.