The Union took a chance on Hungarian attacking midfielder Daniel Gazdag as a midseason signing in 2021. At first, his impact was not felt, but now he is proving his quality when it matters most. Gazdag’s goal in the conference semis helped Philly make their first-ever conference final, could he be the piece that helps Philly win MLS Cup in 2021?
Gazdag is proving his quality
Gazdag was highly touted when he made his transfer to Philadelphia. He was a true goal scorer in Hungary’s top league and came to Philly just after his season ended. Because of this, the Union managed his time so he would be given some time to rest and adjust to a more demanding league in the MLS. Now, Gazdag seems to be hitting his stride when the Union needs him most.
Daniel is a creative midfielder who can create for himself and others. The way that Jim Curtin and the Union managed his minutes has him raring and ready to go in win-or-go-home matches. Gazdag is showing the quality he has now and is winning over fans who called him a bum at the beginning of his tenure with Philly. Could this versatile midfielder be the key to the Union’s quest for MLS Cup in 2021?
A player given time to learn the league
Gazdag played 23 games for the Union this season. His stats from those matches aren’t the best; scoring four goals and notching three assists. To many, this was cause for concern as a player who was putting up huge goals and assists numbers in Hungary wasn’t bringing that game to MLS. Of the 23 games Gazdag did play in the regular season, he only went 90 minutes three times. This was a strategic plan by Jim Curtin and the coaching staff to make sure that this major weapon wouldn’t burn out before the most important matches would be played.
In these playoffs so far, Gazdag has played 120 minutes in both matches. This is a drastic change from the regular season which usually saw Gazdag go out of the game around the hour mark. This prolonged baptism into MLS was well played by the Union as it allowed Gazdag to understand the league, and how the Union wanted to play. All the while, saving his legs for matches where his quality was absolutely needed.
Now Gazdag fits perfectly into the Union’s 4-3-2-1 Christmas Tree formation as one of the dual-tens who dominate the attacking middle of the field. He’s not only playing well but now he’s also getting on the scoresheet in playoff matches. Some would call that finding his footing at the best possible time.
Finding his footing at the best time possible
Gazdag scored the most important goal in the eastern conference semifinal with his equalizer. He had the last kick of the first half which proved to be an acrobatic stab that beat the Nashville defense and keeper to tie things up. The effort truly sparked life in the Union and might have even saved their postseason hopes.
In the match against Nashville, the Union had more possession in the first half, but couldn’t do much of anything with the ball. After Gazdag kept with the ball and found a way to put it in the back of the net, the rest of the Union team woke up and went on to dominate the second half, extra time, and PKs. Gazdag has the energy and the skill to be the lynchpin for the Union’s attack.
Philly’s attack has been struggling as their strikers can’t buy a goal right now. Gazdag’s ability to hit a banger, or score a gritty goal could be what sets the Union apart from their opposition. Now heading into the conference finals. Gazdag will be part of a battle between the Union and NYCFC to dominate the midfield and create quality chances. The Hungarian could be the hero that brings Philly to MLS Cup.
Can Gazdag be the hero that brings Philly to MLS Cup?
Daniel Gazdag is in the best form of his Union career and they’ll need him to keep that form up against NYCFC. While the match will be at Subaru Park, New York City will still look to control the middle of the field to then control the attacking sequences. Gazdag and the Union will need to do what they do best and limit the opposition’s ability to play in the middle of the park. Gazdag’s fit is a perfect counter to NYCFC.
NYCFC loves to play a 4-2-3-1 and bully people off the ball. Their double pivot of James Sands and Alfredo Morales is key to disrupting their opposition. This is where Gazdag and his number 10 counterpart Monteiro will operate. If they can get on the ball and make those central midfielders spread out, there will be space for Philly to operate. Whether it be a striker actually making a run and winning a header, or if it provides space down NYCFC’s flanks to get crosses in. Watch for Gazdag to manipulate NYCFC’s central midfield to put pressure on their backline to make a play to stay in the match.
Gazdag’s ability to straight dominate the attacking middle of the field is something that the Union will need to happen if they want to get to MLS Cup. Daniel is in his best form, was rested for the majority of the regular so he’d be able to give his all for this team in the playoffs. If this Hungarian number 10 can find another way to score a playoff goal in front of a packed Subaru Park, then the Union might just be on their way to their first MLS Cup in franchise history.
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union, Andrew Zwarych