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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 9, 2010

Soccer: Casey not sweating a spot on U.S. World Cup squad

AP Sports Writer

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. With each strum of his guitar, the squandered scoring chances fade away for Colorado Rapids forward Conor Casey.

Music has become an escape for Casey, a way to keep soccer from consuming him.

Playing a few guitar riffs helps him relax, not worry about the little things out of his control - such as whether or not he'll make the U.S. World Cup team.

These days, that's all he hears about, all he's ever asked. Casey insists he's at peace with whatever decision U.S. coach Bob Bradley makes concerning his roster.

If Casey joins the squad bound for South Africa, great. Maybe he'll even bring along his guitar.

If not, so be it. He'll take a vacation.

He's become rather ambivalent on that topic, refusing to raise his hopes.

"You don't really have expectations for anything, you're not going to be let down," Casey said. "Of course I want to make the team. I'm just not expecting it."

He will find out his fate soon enough, with Bradley set to announce his 26-to-28-man training camp roster Tuesday, with players starting training May 17 at Princeton, N.J. By the time the team leaves May 30 after exhibitions against the Czech Republic and Turkey, the U.S. will be down to the 23-man limit.

"There's no doubt in my mind that he should be a part of that group," Rapids coach Gary Smith said.

Casey, 28, has 20 career appearances with the U.S. national team, including a two-goal performance against Honduras last October that helped the Americans clinch a spot in the World Cup.

Still, he's in a fierce fight for one of the final spots at forward, contending with players such as the Los Angeles Galaxy's Edson Buddle, Puebla's Herculez Gomez the Houston's Brian Ching, who was in uniform Saturday for the first time since injuring his hamstring April 1 but did not play.

Just how this plays out, Casey has no clue. He's viewed as the same type of player as Chin g, both target forwards, and Bradley may take just one. Then there's Gomez and Buddle to consider, both of whom are having fantastic springs.

"I think I've played pretty consistently over the last couple of years, done well when I've been in camp," Casey said. "But I don't make the decisions."

The drawback with Casey this season has been his dearth of goals.

Sure, he leads the Rapids in scoring. But all three have come courtesy of a penalty kick, no flying headers or twisting left-footed shots to show for his work.

Even more, his last six goals have come through penalty kicks, tying a league record set by Greg Vanney a decade ago. Casey's last goal not off a penalty kick was last September during a season in which he set a franchise record with 16 goals.

"I'm not really sweating it," said Casey, who grew up in Denver and signed a three-year deal with Colorado in March. "As a forward, you want to score. You don't really feel like you're doing you r job."

Buddle, on the other hand, is scoring in bunches as he leads Major League Soccer with nine goals, helping the Galaxy to a league-best 7-0-1 record. Asked what Buddle brings to the field, Galaxy captain Landon Donovan just grinned and said, "A lot."

"He's done a great job this year," Donovan said Wednesday night after his team's 1-0 win over the Rapids at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

Surely Buddle's smooth play has earned him a place on the squad, right?

"Out of my hands," said Buddle, who turns 29 later this month. "We'll see what happens."

While this has been a rough start, scoring wise, to the season for Casey, he feels he's on the brink of a breakout. Every part of his game feels consistent - except, of course, the finishing aspect.

"When you're a forward, you have times when everything is going in and you have times where nothing seems to want to go in," he said. "You've got to keep working on it and hoping you get that turned."

That's where guitar therapy plays a role.

He doesn't analyze film, looking for moves he could've made to score. That causes Casey to overthink.

So instead of lending any credence to a prolonged slump, he plays Creedence Clearwater Revival on his guitar to tune out any distractions.

Lately, he's been mastering the chords to the Creedence song "Lodi," a tune he found so catchy that he named his dog, a German Shepherd/border collie mix, after it.

"It's getting there," Casey said.

He was talking about his guitar playing, but the same can certainly be said of his play on the field.