Before too much time passes in the offseason—with the MLS Cup playoffs, the 2019 awards are being handed out, and the offseason moves—let’s take some time to officially and properly give a Burgundy Wave thanks to Rapids legend Conor Casey for salvaging the 2019 season for the Colorado Rapids.
But first, let’s look back at the forward’s storied career. After playing in the 2000 Summer Games for the USA, Casey signed a four-year contract with Borussia Dortmund. While there, he was loaned to Hannover 96 and Karlsruher. After Casey’s contract expired with Dortmund, he was moved to Mainz 05, where he played for three years.
Casey played in MLS for nine years, including six with our Colorado Rapids, but also Toronto FC (2007), Philadelphia Union (2013-2015), and the Columbus Crew—scoring 71 goals in the process. As every Rapids supporter knows (but in case you are new to our beloved club), he played an integral part in the Rapids winning their only MLS Cup in 2010—scoring a goal from his hindquarters (as you see at the 0:46 second mark).
As if his playing career didn’t warrant enough gratitude, after retiring, he came back to Colorado as an assistant coach for the Rapids in 2017 under Pablo Mastroeni, his former teammate. After Mastroeni was let go, Casey stayed as an assistant coach for Anthony Hudson. Upon the firing of Hudson, who left after nine games into the 2019 season with an 8–26–9 record over his two years in Colorado, Casey took the reigns for the Burgundy Boys.
In Atlanta, after what would end up being his last game as head coach, Hudson fired this salvo to the Rapids organization:
“We come to a place where a team full of superstars and big-money players and a massive, massive gap in class,” Hudson said. “We are fighting down at the bottom with a bottom group of players and we have to find a way to pick up a result. Today was just another example of the real gulf in class. If this was a promotion-and-relegation league, we’d have been relegated by now.” [source]
Rumors flew about Hudson’s demeanor and conduct toward the players who, in turn, reciprocated their displeasure. Hudson struggled with the players, with tactics, and soon, with the organization and fanbase. So, after 43 games and going winless in the first 11 games of 2019, exit Hudson stage left.
Enter first-time head coach (interim, yes, but still) Conor Casey. While the Rapids did not win the first two matches, Casey left the Rapids organization on August 25 with a 7-5-7 record and 26 points.
He led the Burgundy Boys to beat both Los Angeles clubs (LA Galaxy 1-0 on May 19, and LAFC 1-0 on July 28). They scored six goals against Montreal on August 3. But more than results, Casey led the Rapids, the same “bottom group of players” who should’ve have been “relegated.” He made the team competitive and gave the supporters hope. And though he did not become the full-time head coach of the Rapids, he set the club up for success and the ascension of Robin Fraser to take over the club in late August.
So, Conor Casey, on behalf of the Colorado Rapids supporter base—thank you! We wish you every success. And whatever success the Rapids have in 2020 and beyond, we will never forget your contribution to salvaging the 2019 season.