Alex Caskey has been to Sounders FC training camp before.
However, the player that is in Arizona with the team now is different than the player that only lasted a few days with the club in 2011.
Drafted in the third round of the MLS SuperDraft out of Davidson University in North Carolina, Caskey played the 2011 season with the Charleston Battery after not catching on in Seattle. There he had one goal and one assist in 22 matches, 15 of them starts. The experience made all the difference though.
Like Lamar Neagle before him, the move to Charleston was a good way to bridge the gap between the college and MLS levels.
“It’s a little bit like Lamar. He dropped down and got minutes with Charleston in the USL and got some confidence,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “For him it was a big jump coming out of college.”
He excelled there and it was expected that if he came back for the 2012 season he would start in the midfield. When the call came from Seattle, though, it gave Caskey a second chance to crack an MLS roster.
“They talked to me a little bit, so I thought there was a chance to come back. I was definitely excited,” said Caskey, 23. “Playing in Charleston, I thought I improved a lot so I was happy to get the call back and get another chance.”
The player Seattle brought in was a vast improvement over the one they saw briefly in 2011, primarily because of experience playing with professionals at the USL level.
Although he had played well when Davidson faced some of the top Division I schools in the southeast, the infrequency of that level of competition made it more difficult for Caskey to make the immediate jump to the MLS level.
“He came out of a smaller Division I program that maybe the trainings weren’t as difficult at times because the quality of the team wasn’t as high as it was at a top Division I school,” Schmid said. “Playing in the USL really helped him there. His ability to defend and use his body and his competing for possession of the ball have improved and they’ve improved because of the playing time and his confidence. “
The result has been a much more productive training camp for Caskey. Now more able to stay with the run of play on a physical level, he is able to learn the nuances of the game at that level.
“I’ve gotten more out of it. I’m playing at a higher level, so I can get more out of the training sessions,” he said.
Whether that will translate into a roster spot for 2012 is yet to be seen. But it is already a success story of hard work and determination.