It's no secret that I'm a Tony Cascio fanboy. After they drafted him -- I was the one who started the #DraftTony hashtag campaign -- I ended up making a custom T-Shirt and getting a jersey with his name on the back. I love the kid's upside and skills on the ball.
So naturally, I'm disappointed that he hasn't gotten all that much playing time. Both Matt Doyle and myself pegged him as the likely day one starter for the Rapids on one of the wing-striker positions in Oscar Pareja's 4-3-3 formation. Instead, they've been using Atiba Harris and Nick Labrocca in his place, either on the wings in the diamond 4-4-2 that Pareja has used lately or up top in that 4-3-3.
Watching some of the performances he has had this season, I think I've figured out why he has only received 382 minutes of time: he looks exactly the same as he did last season. That's not necessarily a bad thing, of course. I would take Tony Cascio of 2012 and give him plenty of minutes every season. Unfortunately, there were flaws in his game that we expected would be patched up by now, and they haven't quite been.
He still has great skill on the ball, but his final touch is still just that little tinge of unpolished. Defensively on the wing, he can be up and down. He has even regressed a bit in the shooting category, where he was perfectly fine letting loose from outside the box last season he has only put one shot on goal this year.
He still looks a tiny bit tentative on the attack, still learning what moves to make and where. Atiba Harris may make foolish decisions with the ball rather often, but at least he makes them with authority -- that's how he ended up with 28 shots, along with the lowest shot conversion rate on the team among people who have scored. (4.0%) Tony needs to take that cue from Atiba and make his decisions quicker. We know his skills have a far higher ceiling than Atiba's when he starts to do so, and that should earn him more starting time on a team desperate for someone to do something with the ball in the final third. Tony at his best last season was that guy doing everything in the final third, Tony at his worst was the tentative model we've seen almost all 300 minutes this year.
Tony was supposed to grow a bit more than we've seen this year, and I still think he's got the potential to do so. As of right now, though, anyone wondering why he has been planted on the bench more often than not this season despite the injury crisis can probably point to chance production as the reason why.