COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The Colorado Rapids have had trouble finishing in front of goal of late, but the team’s all-time leading goalscorer could be coming to their rescue as soon as Saturday.
Striker Conor Casey (above, right) returned to practice this week after missing the Rapids’ last two games with right hamstring tightness and was optimistic on Thursday that he’d be able to return to the field for Saturday’s crucial home clash against Chivas USA (9 pm ET, MLS Live).
“The leg’s going good, just trying to work on my fitness and get sharp and get available for the weekend,” Casey told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “I’m hoping to be available.”
During a summer swoon which has seen them drop to eighth place in the Western Conference, Colorado have struggled with their finishing, and Casey, who has netted a record 50 times in 113 career appearances for his hometown team, has been in and out of the lineup, hampered by a laundry list of injuries.
“It’s been hard this year for sure, keeping sharp fitness-wise, soccer-wise,” Casey said. “Coming back from injury, and then every three or four weeks being out for a couple weeks. It’s been hard to get that rhythm. It’s definitely been a challenging year so far.”
But after Casey’s latest setback, a hamstring injury suffered in practice two weeks ago, Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja is hoping to have Casey as an option once again for his faltering strike force, who missed several golden chances in a 3-2 loss at FC Dallas last Saturday.
“Conor is taking part in practices,” Pareja said on Thursday. “We’re still not sure if he’s ready to play.”
A significant concern for the 31-year-old is his physical form – Casey has been forced to miss half of the Rapids’ 24 games this season – and being able to keep him on the field for extended portions of the season and develop full conditioning. After Casey returned from an Achilles tendon tear in late April, he has suffered a string of nagging injuries that have combined to derail his momentum.
“We’ve been trying different things,” Casey said of his recovery. “Obviously having so many games in July when I first came back wasn’t ideal in terms of getting rest. … I’m really trying to just focus on my body and stretching and taking extra time getting in early and staying late and just doing all the little things to give myself a better chance.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.