April 28, 2012; Commerce City, CO, USA; Whither Casey? Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE
He started his MLS career pretty strongly, as Chivas USA's 2012 first round SuperDraft pick Casey Townsend played in the first four matches of the season. He started three of those games, and he scored his first goal as a professional in dramatic fashion, getting the winner March 24 against Real Salt Lake in Utah. All of a sudden, Chivas' fans were calling him the "white Chicharito" and it looked like the front office picked a young star to build around.
In the following four games, however, Townsend made three substitute appearances, but he played a total of 19 minutes in those matches. He hasn't seen any playing time since April 28, when Chivas suffered their biggest defeat of the season, losing 4-0 to the Colorado Rapids. Has Robin Fraser given up on Townsend?In a word, no. Townsend has all of the attributes to become a good MLS player. He's hard working, he's crafty, and I've already written about his aerial ability on the field. He's also produced at every level prior to the pros, and Chivas' selection of him in the SuperDraft seemed like a good pick.
Although Townsend has only scored one goal, part of the reason for the lack of greater production rests in the fact that Chivas simply could not score through the first eight games of the season. In that stretch, Chivas scored only four goals as a team, so Townsend accounted for 25% of team scoring. For a rookie forward, that is good production from the perspective of overall numbers. That said, obviously averaging half a goal a game is terrible. Luckily, in the past five league matches, Chivas have scored in each game. Of course, they've only scored one goal in each of those matches, but an average of a goal a game is considerably better, right?
Townsend has been somewhat unfortunate due to a variety of circumstances. First, he entered the season behind Juan Pablo Angel on the depth chart. It was unknown if Townsend or Cesar Romero would be the preferred second striker. As it turned out, JPA was hurt through the first part of the season, and Townsend was selected ahead of Romero. So Townsend did get a chance to prove himself. But what hurt matters was that in the midst of the scoring slump, Fraser preferred a single-striker lineup, as he did not trust the defense to remain stout. As it has turned out, Chivas' defense has been very good this season, with the exception of the Colorado loss, but I understand Fraser's worry about the defense heading into the season. As the lone striker up top for the second, third and fourth games of the season, Townsend got very little service from his teammates, and as a result he only has one goal to show for it.
The other main reason why Townsend has seemed to drop off the face of the earth has been the new players entering the squad. First, JPA came back to (precarious) health, and he's been playing much more lately. More importantly, however, was the signing of Jose Correa from Colombia and the acquisition of Juan Agudelo via trade. Since Chivas are still trying to find consistent scoring, Fraser put Correa and Agudelo in straightaway, and those moves have worked, as Correa has two goals in five league appearances for Chivas, and Agudelo has a goal in two league appearances with the Goats. The reality is that Correa and Agudelo seem to be more promising players than Townsend, and they have been producing so far, so they're getting the nod. Plus, both of them have much more professional experience compared to Townsend, who is still adjusting to MLS and the much-longer schedule.
But over the course of a 34 game season, a lot of things happen, and Townsend will surely get another shot. I don't think Fraser has given up on him by any means, and he will probably continue to be lumped in with Romero in the third tier of the depth chart for the time being. But he will get a chance, and when he gets it he will need to take advantage. Compared to recent years, Chivas seem to have much more talent in 2012. That means Casey Townsend is on the outside looking in, fair or unfair. But if he contributes to good results for Chivas, on the field or otherwise, then he is a useful player for this team.
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