Is Borek Dockal becoming the next Philadelphia Union great?


Borek Dockal had a slow and rocky start to the beginning of his Union career. The creative Czech number ten was lauded for his ability to create offense before the season started. But when he first took the pitch for the Union he looked like a straight up bust. After gradually showing his qualities, Dockal has become crucial to the Union’s success. His recent brilliance earned him MLS’ player of the week honors. Could it be possible that Borek Dockal is becoming the next Philadelphia Union great? 

While it is still early in his Union Career Dockal possess all the qualities of becoming a great Union player. Grit, tenacity, and the ability to score goals define his play. Looking back at his short Union career so far, one could see Borek Dockal becoming a fan favorite, and possibly an all time great among the fans.

Early Season Criticisms:

Dockal had trouble getting things going in Philly for the first month of his tenure with the Union. The team’s poor record during that stretch made many second guess the Union’s willingness to pay over a million dollars for an underperforming player on a one year loan. Many members of the media, including myself wondered if Dockal was the right man for the Union. He looked lost at times on the pitch. Making runs into other players spaces. He had a bad habit early on of trying to create chances and failing to find the right pass, or leaving passes short. This play resulted in the backlash from Union fans and media alike. 

With the criticisms swirling around him, and the team on the brink of destruction early on in the 2018 season, Borek Dockal began to show his electrifying qualities. Over the last month, Dockal has been the Union’s best player. He has put the early season criticisms to bed!

Comfort and Confidence shaped a turnaround:

Everything seemed to click for Dockal and the rest of the Union squad at the end of April. The Union took on DC United at home; Dockal found his first goal in route to a huge 3-2 win for the Union. After a beginning of May that saw two loses on the road, the Union were able to find a win at Montreal. This started a four game unbeaten streak where Dockal recorded two goals and four assists. The Union’s last three league games were all over the place for Dockal. He was subbed off in Atlanta after 23 minutes after the crazy double red card nonsense. Borek was then asked to play the number eight role the next match against Toronto, which made it hard for him to find attacking space. Last week, Dockal returned to the ten spot, and absolutely destroyed Vancouver. He scored two goals, his attacking movement was flawless and dangerous. Dockal was the best player on the pitch, which is why he won player of the week honors.

The reason Dockal has been able to live up to his potential was because he finally became comfortable with this Union team. He had enough time under his belt to understand where his teammates liked to move on the field. You could tell that Dockal’s familiarity with the team lead to his confidence on the pitch. Knowing when to pass, when to shoot and how to create offense allowed Dockal to look like the player the Union needed as their number 10. The Czech’s potential is now at an all time high, but will it be enough to help carry this Union team in 2018?

Dockal’s potential is at an all time high, can he help the Union to the promise land in 2018?

Borek Dockal has put up some pretty impressive numbers through just 15 games. If we are comparing him to past Union great Tranquillo Barnetta, Dockal has just one less goal and two less assists than Tranquillo had in his whole Union career! This is eye-opening, as many regarded Barnetta as a great Union player when he left the club after the 2016 season. Dockal’s numbers could be on pace to match Union Ring of Honor member Sebastien Le Toux’s numbers from 2011. In 2011, Le Toux scored 11 goals and assisted nine time over 34 matches. Dockal is halfway to those numbers through 15 games. What do those great Union attackers of the past brought during those seasons was a playoff berth, could Dockal do the same for the Union?

All signs are pointing to yes, should Borek be able to keep up his form over his last 10 games. Dockal has a chance to be the next great attacker to lead the Union to lead the Union’s attack to the MLS playoffs, and a potential US Open Cup run to the semi-finals/finals. His play has unlocked a great pressing/attacking style for Philadelphia. He has allowed the Union to finally play the way Jim Curtin and Earnie Stewart have wanted their team to play. While all this may be just my over-the-top optimism, it’s clear that this Union team will only go as far a Borek Dockal allows.

Dockal’s Union legacy only goes as far as this 2018 team does:

In terms of Borek Dockal’s Philadelphia Union legacy, it only goes as far as the 2018 Philadelphia Union team goes. Dockal is only a Union player through a one year loan from Chinese club Henan Jianye. The Chinese side has said that they want Dockal to return after the 2018 MLS season. While the Union could try to buy out Dockal, they would have to break the bank to do so. Based on the year he and the Union have this season, that may be the best option for whoever the new sporting director is going to be!

There’s no doubt that Dockal has made this Philadelphia Union team better. He’s finally put on a show on the pitch, has the stats to show all the hard work he does and the team is above the redline for the first time this season. With a little more than half a season left, Dockal will have to keep playing at this high level for the 2018 Union hopes, and for Borek to leave a legacy as a Union player where fans see him as one of the Union greats!

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Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports