COMMERCE CITY CO - OCTOBER 23: Conor Casey #9 of the Colorado Rapids pushes the ball upfield in front of Jamison Olave #4 of Real Salt Lake during the second half at Dick's Sporting Goods Park October 23 2010 in Commerce City Colorado. The game ended in a 2-2 draw as Real Salt Lake scored two last minute goals to tie the game. Casey scored a goal for the Rapids in the 2-2 ties. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)
Football is a team sport and in MLS especially the last few seasons have shown that the way to win trophies is by having a solid team and not just one or two superstars trying to shine through otherwise mediocre conditions. Solid 100% team play despite a perhaps smaller talent pool than some larger clubs is what got Real Salt Lake and Colorado Rapids the last two MLS Cups, after all. Even on a solid team though, it's always good to know you have a guy that can always be depended on to finish the dirty work for you in the clutch.
The Rapids have a player like that, but will not have him during this playoff run. Conor Casey singlehandedly won Colorado an MLS Cup last season with two clutch playoff goals, both coming when the Rapids were already down by a goal at the time. Unfortunately, he will be watching the playoff campaign of his team from the sidelines this time around.
When Casey slipped on the rug at Century Link Field and broke his Achilles tendon, the Rapids playoff hopes probably went with him. Not having their stalwart scorer - the guy who just knows how to pile the goals in regardless of how the rest of the team is doing - will assuredly be a big jab to the heart of the Rapids cup defense. Are the Rapids a good enough team to win a cup with
Consider the form of the other strikers on the team. Omar Cummings has turned into a shell of his former self, going for more cheeky plays than easy goals. Caleb Folan continues to just barely miss every opportunity to finally break through and score the goals he was supposed to when he was signed. Sanna Nyassi has shown plenty of promise but has scored his goals in bunches and none of those bunches were recent. Macoumba Kandji has shown promise but similar to last year hasn't managed to turn that promise into actual goals. Andre Akpan and Quincy Amarikwa can't yet be counted on with their inexperience and both have been out of practice against top teams getting their minutes against Metapan and Real Espana.
Who is the man without Casey who will score a goal while lying on the pitch during a mad scramble during the most important game of the season? Who has shown this season that they will find the ball in front of net and put it right where it needs to go? If we see PK's in a game, who will be the 100% certain man to take theirs first and give the team some ease? I don't know if there is a player of that caliber - at least in the current form the players are in now - on the Colorado Rapids right now.
A scoring threat will need to emerge from this Colorado team starting Thursday if Colorado want to defend their title. Who it could be is anyone's guess, nobody but Jeff Larentowicz scored more than six goals all season long as the duties were divided almost comically equally throughout the team. That's the role that Conor Casey played for Colorado last season and it's a very hard role to emulate. We can't expect Kosuke Kimura and Pablo Mastroeni to play the heros again. For the fans of the Rapids, we'll have to hope that somebody up top finds themselves before, during and hopefully after Thursday's match with Columbus.