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Conor Casey Fits What Columbus Crew SC Need in a Backup Forward

There's no reason to believe the new Black & Gold signing can't provide a capable backup to Kei Kamara.

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

New Columbus Crew SC signing Conor Casey is not Radamel Falcao, as rumors suggested might be the case earlier this offseason, but he's the type of player the Black & Gold were looking for as the primary backup to forward Kei Kamara.

"My priority really is getting myself fit, getting myself integrated into the team, and getting myself in a position where I can be able to help the team when needed," Casey said on a conference call on Tuesday.

The key portion of that statement is, "I can be able to help the team when needed."

Assuming Kamara can stay healthy for the majority of the season, Casey will primarily come off the bench when Crew SC needs a goal late in matches or if Kamara is tired. He will likely not be a guy the team relies on game in and game out, but rather a good practice player who won't complain about his playing time.

"It's really pretty simple in terms of my role," Casey said. "I just focus on getting myself ready to be prepared and pushing my teammates, pushing myself, and be ready for any opportunity that comes my way."

In 2015, the combination of Aaron Schoenfeld and Jack McInerney, the two primary backups to Kamara, played a total of 385 minutes during the regular season, scoring a combined three goals.

Last season with the Philadelphia Union, Casey was on the field for 340 minutes and also scored three goals. Even if Kamara misses more time, Casey is still capable of stepping in and finding the back of the net.

Not only does the striker fit the description of willing veteran role player, but he also fits into head coach Gregg Berhalter's system.

"I think that Conor fits that role perfectly," Berhalter said. "He's a guy that I've admired for a long time. His ability inside the penalty box is very good. We're a team that likes to get a lot of crosses in so I think that fits his game perfectly. And he's a very, very smart soccer player. So we're excited to have him joining the team and providing a key role for us."

The Black & Gold led the league by a wide margin with crosses served last year at 765. The Union, Casey's former club, was in eighth in that category with 470 crosses.

This is a stat that peaked Casey's attention while on the free agent market. Not only does he have a good relationship with Berhatler and some of his staff, but he also saw how Columbus plays and wants to be a part of that.

"I think the most glaring thing is just the style of play and really the direction the club has been heading in the last couple of years," Casey said of his decision to sign with Crew SC. "They really just have such an identity that they've created and as a center forward, the amount of balls that come in the box obviously is probably the highest - I don't know those numbers - but it's really crazy the amount of balls they get in the dangerous areas."

At 34-years old, Casey is not the player that scored a career-high 16 goals for the Colorado Rapids in 2009 or a possible U.S. Nation Teamer any more, but he doesn't have to be. Casey is at a point in his career where he's okay being a role player and contributing here and there, which is exactly what Berhalter expects.

"He will contribute, there's no question about it," he said. "He's a guy that's going to be affective and we're counting on him to be affective. We believe in him, we think he's a striker that can flourish in our system, and we're excited to have him on board."