2016 Preseason

Crew SC crosses and Casey: A perfect match

Conor Casey Training 1_25_16

“Our job is to make this team better. In every single position, we want to make this team better.”

Crew SC Sporting Director & Head Coach Gregg Berhalter has made it a point to create depth at every position for the Black & Gold. In an effort to add options up top, Columbus signed veteran striker and free agent Conor Casey on Tuesday.

“He’s a guy that I’ve admired for a long time,” Berhalter says. “His ability inside the penalty box is very good. We’re a team that likes to get a lot of crosses in, so I think that fits his game perfectly, and he’s a very, very good soccer player.”

With 15 years of combined experience spent playing in the Bundesliga, Major League Soccer and with the United States Men’s National Team, Casey has built up quite a résumé. The 2009 MLS Cup champion and MLS Cup MVP is also sharing his experience with his teammates during the Black & Gold’s preseason camp in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.

“From the leadership standpoint, he’s a guy that’s been around MLS for a while,” Berhalter says. “He’s seen a lot of soccer and he’s won a championship, so he knows what it takes to be successful in this league. That’s a great example for the rest of the team.”

Casey won that championship with the Colorado Rapids, where he spent six seasons. The striker has also played for Toronto FC and the Philadelphia Union, scoring 71 career goals in nine total MLS seasons. Now donning the Black & Gold, Casey says he’s ready for a new challenge with Columbus.

“There are always new challenges and new ideologies and systems to adapt to, and new players,” he says. “A new challenge I think is sometimes necessary for players, and I feel really excited and fortunate to be a part of it. It’s something that I’m definitely used to after being on numerous teams. The guys are great and it’s really just about getting out there and competing with each other, and building that trust and respect.”

Having known Berhalter for about 10 years, including representing the Stars and Stripes together, Casey says his “respect for Gregg is extremely high.” That and Berhalter’s transformation of Crew SC over the past two seasons were his main reasons for venturing to the Capital City, the striker says.

“I think the most glaring thing was just the style of play and really the direction the club’s been heading in the last couple years,” he says. “They really just have such an identity that they’ve created, and as a center forward, the amount of balls that come in the box is probably the highest—I don’t know that the number’s right—but it’s really crazy the amount of balls they get into dangerous areas.”

Casey’s spot on. Last season, Crew SC led MLS in crosses and successful services, as well as crosses, both attempted and successful, from open play. The Black & Gold also finished second in the League in total chances created (just eight fewer than Portland) and crosses from open play accuracy (.2 percent less than FC Dallas).

Crew SC’s services coupled with the 34-year-old’s presence in the box make a compelling case for Black & Gold goals.

“He will contribute, there’s no question about it,” Berhalter says. “He’s a guy that’s going to be effective and we’re counting on him to be effective. We believe in him. We think he’s a striker that can flourish in our system and we’re excited to have him on board.”

The expectations from the technical staff are clear and Casey himself has established his priorities.

“My priority really is just getting myself fit, getting myself integrated into the team and getting myself in the position where I can be able to help the team when needed,” he says. “It’s really pretty simple in terms of my role to just focus on getting myself ready to be prepared and pushing my teammates, pushing myself and be ready for any opportunity that comes my way.”

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