“This Year it’s Win Everything;” Doop by the River’s Conversation with Leon Flach

Leon Flach has been a starter for the Philadelphia Union since he was signed last spring. Flach has played in 46 games since the start of the 2021 season and started 43 of them. His willingness to endlessly run, his tenacity to put out fires while defending, and his pushing to create attacks in transition make him a very valuable piece to this Union team. The Doop by the River Podcast was able to sit down with him and have a conversation about his time in Philly so far.

Leon Flach
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union, Andrew Zwarych

A Conversation with Leon Flach

Sometimes it can be easy to overlook players who do the dirty work on a team. That is something that Leon Flach definitely does for the Union. Leon has slotted into the left-shuttler role in a 4-1-2-1-2 formation for the Union.

That left-sided number eight for the Union has to be able to help out in many facets on the field. He needs to cover for the left-back if they go up the field, help out the lone number six if Philly gets hit with a counterattack from the opposition, and carry the ball forward if the attack goes down the left flank.

Flach has helped the Union so much with his ability to do all of this, and in his conversation with Doop by the River, he attributed this to being comfortable in Philly on and off the field!

Comfortable in Philly

When you think of Leon Flach with the Union, you think of his comfortability on the field. He’ll run until he can’t run anymore, and through that determination comes a calmness to himself, and the team! But what you might not have known is his taking to this city as a 20-year-old German-American. Leon was born in Texas but spent the majority of his life in Germany. When he got the opportunity to come to the States to play soccer for Philadelphia he took it and immediately got acclimated to the city of Brotherly Love.

Leon brought up that he was interested in Philly during the 2020 season, as he watched what he called the “Covid Cup” and saw players like Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie get opportunities to play and advance their careers in Philly. Fast forward to 2021 and Leon was in Philly as a Union player. He quickly learned about the USA, and Philadelphia by going to tourist attractions.

Flach mentioned going up the Art Museum steps, seeing the Rocky statue, going to the city’s other museums, and the Zoo as ways of getting comfortable in the city. Add to that his impressive start with the team and it’s understandable why Leon Flach is a hugely important part of this Union team!

The Union’s system fits Leon’s style of play

Leon Flach was able to come into this team in 2021 and start their first match, and not just any game. Leon’s first match was the club’s first-ever CCL match at Saprissa. He started the match and showed everything we see from him in every match. Flach attributed that to his mentality of not thinking just playing!

His ability to come in right away and get right to playing rather than thinking about his role created the Union we see today! This has to do with how Leon plays as a left-sided eight in this Union’s system. When asked about his style of play and how the Union’s midfield clicks, he perfectly summed up why the Union have been so successful last year, and why they’re currently in first place in the east in 2022.

Flach talked about his ability to gel well with Kai Wagner on the left side. The fact that they both speak German makes for a great combination. They know who needs to do what on the left side to help the Union’s attack or defense. That combination has been at an MLS-best level in Flach’s 46 matches with the Union, and now we’re seeing even more chemistry between Leon and the other midfielders.

Leon Flach, Jose Martinez, Alejandro Bedoya, and Daniel Gazdag are creating quite the midfield diamond. Flach spoke about each player’s emotion on the pitch, and that they all fit perfectly to execute the club’s desired style of play. This has shown in the results the club has when these guys take the pitch together. All four are starters, and it’s very hard for them to be displaced at the moment. Flach’s ability to help connect the midfield for the Union has a lot of eyes on him, some from higher-ups in US Soccer!

USMNT Interest in Flach

Leon Flach has represented both Germany and the USA at the U20 level. This past season, he got an invitation to come to the USMNT Gold Cup camp but didn’t get a spot on the roster for the tournament that saw the USA lift the Cup.

Fast-forward to December and US Soccer was calling in players for a winter camp ahead of World Cup qualifiers. Flach was on the list to be invited but he was not able to join that camp as the Union was deep in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Flach seems to be a player that Berhalter and the USMNT want to get into USA’s senior national team. Could this be something we see on the way toward the 2022 World Cup, or possibly afterward when the USA will be preparing for the 2023 Gold Cup? No matter what happens with Leon Flach at the international level, he is ready to win now with the Union!

The goal of this 2022 Union team

Leon spoke so well about the end of the 2021 season for the Union. He said that they “lost a battle they couldn’t win.” I love this way of thinking about the Covid-plagued team that fell one game short of making MLS Cup. It shows the gravity of the world we live in and also the reliance the team had to compete and still almost do the unthinkable.

Now in 2022, the Union is ready to win! In Flach’s own words: “This year, it’s win everything!” Leon spoke about the team’s consistency in the early season, and how if they can keep that up they can achieve great things! He obviously mentioned going for MLS Cup, but also mentioned the return of the US Open Cup. Flach and the Union wanna go for that trophy as well! If they can keep playing the way they have early in 2022, they might just win a double!

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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union, Andrew Zwarych