Casey taking USMNT talk in stride

Rapids star not discouraged by praise for Buddle, Gomez

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — With all the talk created by the sensational offensive exploits of Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez, people may have forgotten that Conor Casey was instrumental in getting the U.S. through to the World Cup in the first place.

When Buddle and Gomez were considered long shots last year to make the U.S. squad for South Africa, Casey was busy scoring two crucial goals against Honduras to secure the U.S. team’s passage through to this summer’s World Cup.

The Colorado Rapids striker played his way into Bob Bradley’s thoughts last year through his consistent ability to find the back of the net, notching 16 goals for the Rapids last season. He then added two goals in Honduras for his first with the U.S. national team.

With Brian Ching sidelined with a hamstring injury and with Charlie Davies still recovering from a horrific car accident, there are forward spots up for grabs. The clamor is for LA’s Buddle and Puebla’s Gomez to be possibly included in Bradley’s initial pool of 30 players, due to be announced May 11.

Casey, who has three goals in 2010, isn’t letting the talk get to him.

“It’s natural to talk about them; they are playing very well,” he said this week. “All I can do is take care of my own business – that’s all I can control.”

With two penalties on Sunday in the 3-1 victory over Toronto, Casey reached third on the all-time scoring list for the Rapids. He has a strike rate of one goal every other game – 32 goals in 64 games. Colorado’s all-time leading goal scorer is current Rapids’ technical director, Paul Bravo, who notched 39 goals in 135 games during his Rapids’ career.

Rapids coach Gary Smith said Casey’s game against Toronto  last Sunday was by far the striker’s best performance of the season. But Casey needs to continue to focus on his strengths to improve the consistency of his play and make him a likely inclusion on Bradley’s squad.

“He showed very, very good quality, he moved the ball quickly, he drew pressure, played round it,” Smith said of Casey after Sunday’s game. “There were so many good things about his game. It’s not always the way. He sometimes overplays when he doesn’t need to because he does have that talent as a big guy. But the more he sticks to that, the more difficult he will be to play against, the more goals he will score and the more we will create because he moves the ball quicker.  And guess what? The more likely it will be that he will be in that World Cup squad.”

Casey said he was glad for the win Sunday and clearly happy to score, even if he is still looking for his first goal away from the penalty spot.

“Three goals, all PKs, it would be nice to get one from the run of play,” the striker said after the Toronto game. “We were able to play the ball more around. I got more touches to my feet, which is a big bonus for me. The last couple of games, we were under pressure and kicking it up in the air more and not combining. When we can combine more, it benefits me and the team a lot more. I felt a lot better about it.”

The final 23-man World Cup roster for the U.S. team will be announced June 1. The U.S. opens its World Cup campaign against England June 12 in Rustenburg, South Africa.