Conor Casey a Rare Philly Phenomenon -- A Player Who Is Far Exceeding Expectations

Conor Casey a Rare Philly Phenomenon -- A Player Who Is Far Exceeding Expectations

Hey, it's been a while. I'm Steve, and I like soccer. Pleased to meet you.

Seriously though, apologies for the lack of posts the last few weeks. Real work got in the way (you thought blogging was a real job?), but hopefully things have settled down and we can get back in the groove.

I've had to miss the last two home games, but was able to watch them on television. While I'll gladly take my seat at PPL Park over one on the couch, you do get a different perspective, especially as the team adapts to life without Jack McInerney.

(Ironically, that's a problem that could come to an end today, as United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann is entitled to make roster changes before the Gold Cup quarterfinals on Sunday. Jack McInerney has not seen the field in three group games, and we should find out today whether he'll return to the Union in time for Saturday's big game vs. Portland)

That different perspective has made me realize something you don't really need to be an astute soccer mind to figure out:

Conor Casey's still got it.

When Casey signed with the Union in the offseason, I was happy with the move and excited to see Casey play. But if I'm being honest, most of that excitement was because for the first time since the Freddy Adu signing, the team was bringing in a player I had heard of. A player with a name and a pedigree and an established MLS career.

I didn't really expect Casey to do much more than be a vocal leader, a bruiser up front, and a spark off the bench when the Union needed a late goal or to hold the ball up and keep a lead.

In reality, Conor Casey is the hands-down, without-question, don't-even-try-to-argue-with-me Most Valuable Player for the Union.

McInerney leads the team in goals and Sebastien Le Toux leads the entire league in assists. I know this. But Casey has been exactly what this team needs at exactly the right time.

In the season-opening loss to Kansas City, Casey came on in the 84th minute of a game the Union were going to lose anyway. He threw his body around, earned a few laughs from the River End, and I walked out expecting more of the same. A nice player who is not afraid to get involved and get under an opponents' skin. But I wasn't expecting much skill or finishing touch.

Boy, was I wrong.

Finally, for the first time since flashes from Le Toux in the team's inaugural season, the Union have forward(s?!?!) with a finishing touch. Casey technically only had one goal against Chivas last weekend, but only because his header glanced off Brian Carroll before finding the net and soccer is silly with how it awards goals.

Casey's "real" goal -- the team's third -- may seem like a simple finish. But with a completely saturated field and a bouncing ball, there was nothing simple about it.

Instead of blasting it into the Delaware (something Michael Farfan and others do regularly), Casey had the patience to see the goalkeeper leaning to his left, and calmly rolled it the other way to seal a win the Union desperately needed.

Casey will tun 32 years old next week (Matthew De George of The Daily Times in Delaware County had an great Casey story in Wednesday's edition). He's been around the block, and with one glance it's easy to see he doesn't have the typical soccer body type (although the fact that he played a full 90 in the heat in Houston 2 weeks ago was surprising).

But whether McInerney returns this weekend or is out the rest of the month, Union fans can rest comfortably knowing that should a Grade A chance fall at the feet of a Union forward, odds are good it'll actually be converted.

That's not something fans of this team are used to.

Since I've slacked off in recent weeks, a few posts coming this week. On Thursday we'll break down the strangest goal in Union history, followed Friday by a look ahead at the biggest home game of the year so far for the Union.

Best of NBA: Nets end 11-game skid by routing Pelicans

Best of NBA: Nets end 11-game skid by routing Pelicans

NEW ORLEANS -- Brook Lopez and Bojan Bogdanovic scored 23 points apiece and the Brooklyn Nets ended an 11-game losing streak, routing the New Orleans Pelicans 143-114 on Friday night.

Caris Levert added 17 points on 6-of-6 shooting for the Nets, who had seven players in double figures while beating their season high for points by 16. Their 29-point victory was 11 more than their previous largest. They also set season highs for points in the second quarter (37) and points in any quarter with 43 in the third.

Anthony Davis led New Orleans with 22 points and nine rebounds despite leaving in the third quarter with a leg injury. The defeat was a huge comedown for him and the Pelicans a day after he was named a starter for the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans (see full story).

Warriors top Rockets to win 6th straight
HOUSTON -- Kevin Durant scored 32 points and the Golden State Warriors used a big third quarter to build a huge lead and coast to their sixth straight victory, 125-108 over the Houston Rockets on Friday night.

In a matchup of two of the best teams in the Western Conference and All-Star starting guards Stephen Curry and James Harden, the Rockets fell short. Houston, which entered the game leading the NBA with 667 3-pointers, was just 7 of 35 behind the arc. Harden went 0 for 5 and Eric Gordon, who entered the game leading the NBA with 160 3s, missed all seven attempts.

Clint Capela had 22 points and Harden added 17 points with 11 assists for the Rockets, who are third in the West behind Golden State and San Antonio (see full story).

Kemba Walker scores 32 to lead Hornets past Raptors
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Kemba Walker scored 32 points on 11-of-16 shooting, and the Charlotte Hornets beat the Toronto Raptors 113-78 on Friday night.

Walker, who came in averaging 23 points and looking to earn his first All-Star selection, scored 16 points in the pivotal third quarter, including a four-point play as the Hornets outscored the Raptors 33-15 to build a 25-point lead.

Walker didn't play at all in the fourth quarter after the Hornets stretched their lead to 30. He finished with eight assists.

Frank Kaminsky had a solid night off the bench for the second straight game, scoring 16 points and grabbing eight rebounds.

Kyle Lowry had 24 points and DeMar DeRozan added 23 points for the Raptors, who have lost two straight (see full story). 

Magic pull away for convincing win over Milwaukee
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Elfrid Payton scored 20 points, Jeff Green added 18 points and seven rebounds off the bench, and the Orlando Magic snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the Milwaukee Bucks 112-96 on Friday night.

The Magic, returning home from a 1-5 road trip, played with a small lineup for much of the night and it provided the offense they needed with two of their top scorers out. Orlando had six players in double figures, including starters Aaron Gordon (17), Serge Ibaka (13) and Nikola Vucevic (13).

Orlando shot 46 percent from the field while limiting the Bucks to 41 percent.Jabari Parker led Milwaukee with 25 points and Giannis Antetokounmpo contributed 17 points and 14 rebounds as the Bucks dropped their fourth straight game (see full story). 

Social media reacts to Mo Williams' career as a Sixer

Social media reacts to Mo Williams' career as a Sixer

It has been a crazy week for former Sixer Mo Williams.
 
Williams retired after last season, but was kept on the Cleveland Cavilers' roster in case his salary would be needed as part of a trade, and he has now been moving all across the NBA.
 
Williams, and the $2.2 million in payroll, was involved in the trade with the Atlanta Hawks for Kyle Korver, then traded to Denver before being waived. The Sixers then joined in and picked up Williams and waived him after less than an hour as they re-signed Chasson Randle to a second 10-day contract (see story)
 
Throughout all of this, social media chimed in on the career Williams had as a Sixer.
 

In 2015, before ultimately choosing the Indianapolis Colts, Frank Gore appeared headed to Philadelphia, so, fans settled the debate over who had a better career in Philly with this poll.