Conor Casey scored two of the crucial three goals on a tense night in Honduras last October that finally pushed the U.S. through to the World Cup.
But by May, a month ahead of the world’s biggest sporting event, it simply wasn’t enough to get him onto the team’s provisional 30-man roster for South Africa.
Gray skies outside Denver were a fitting backdrop for Casey’s reaction to his exclusion from the team, which was officially announced on Tuesday.
"[U.S. manager Bob Bradley] called and told me that I wasn't going to be part of the squad," said Casey on how he learned the news. "It was a short conversation; obviously I'm disappointed."
Casey was left off the roster in favor of fellow MLS forwards Brian Ching, Robbie Findley, Edson Buddle and red-hot former MLS regular Herculez Gomez, who parlayed a recent stint with Mexican side Puebla into a surprise spot on the 30-man roster.
“To not make the final 23 might not have been a surprise but to not make the 30 was one,” the Rapids striker said.
Casey has the most US caps (20) among the other stable of forwards taken on Tuesday, outside of expected starter Jozy Altidore (24) and the veteran Ching (44), who was selected for the 2006 World Cup.
He also suited up for the Americans during the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa, and scored two goals for the U.S. in a crucial World Cup qualifier against Honduras on Oct. 10, 2009.
“I am a tad surprised, I have to say,” Rapids coach Gary Smith said. “[Bradley] sees other guys that are maybe performing at a better level, but Conor has played for him and he got him to the World Cup. From where I am, I thought he would be part of that initial group. He’s been fantastic for us.”
Casey has scored three goals for the Rapids this season, while Buddle’s nine goals have paced the Galaxy to the one of the best starts in league history.
For his part, Gomez won a share of the scoring title in the Mexican First Division this spring before returning to the U.S. to train and hopefully make the 30-man roster.
“It’s frustrating,” Rapids midfielder Colin Clark said. “Of course, you want players from your squad to get called into any World Cup roster or any national team camp. Especially with the year he had last year. It’s definitely hard to take for him and for this club. We will be grateful he is here but, all in all, you want some player from your club going to the World Cup.”