Season Reviews

Season Review: Keon Daniel

Photo: Paul Rudderow

In two and a half seasons with the Union, Keon Daniel has registered 2 goals and 4 assists, with 1 goal and 2 assists coming in his first season with the club in 2011. That was his most productive season and one that was shortened when he was unable to re-enter the country due to visa problems.

In 1700+ minutes 2013 and 1500+ minutes in 2012, Daniel registered only 2 assists, 1 in each season. In 2013, Daniel had 27 shots with only 5 hitting the target.

Simply said, this is not a good enough return for a player who was regularly in the Union starting XI for his offense.

Watching the Union play in San Jose in early September, ESPN color commentator Julie Foudy remarked, “The Union just aren’t getting enough out of their central midfield and Keon Daniel,” echoing the opinion of Union fans everywhere. Despite being a regular starter in John Hackworth’s XI, Daniel just didn’t seem to give enough most weeks.

With Michael Farfan given the keys to drive the club for large parts of 2012 and appearing a shell of his former self for most of 2013, the opportunity for Daniel to solidify himself as the Union’s attacking central midfielder was there for the taking. But the languid lefty did little to prove himself worthy of the chance. Game after game, his positioning dropped deeper and deeper, and by the end of the season, he was viewed tactically as a second holding midfielder alongside Brian Carroll.

When visiting teams came into PPL Park this season and sat back with 10 men behind the ball, the Union struggled to score, particularly late in the season. With teams inviting pressure, the Union searched and searched for that little bit of creativity to find a breakthrough. Unfortunately, they did not find it in Daniel. By the final third of 2013, his confidence seemed so lacking that even open opportunities to go for goal were met with hesitancy.

High Point Daniel 2013 stats

Daniel’s lone assist came in the first half of the first game of the season against Kansas City. A nicely lofted ball into the path of Sebastien Le Toux was the dream start for the Union at home.

Low Point

In mid-September at home against Houston, the team just couldn’t find a breakthrough in such an important game that ended in a 1-0 loss. Daniel had a (seemingly good) free kick goal disallowed in the first half for an offside call. The call seemed to sum up the luck of the midfielder this season. Late in the second half of that match, Daniel had a perfect opportunity to strike at goal from 20 yards, but passed it up and instead tried to play a through ball that was easily cut out. Following the performance, Daniel was forced to the bench, not featuring in four of the Union’s last five games.

Strengths

Daniel holds the ball up well and brings a calm demeanor to the game. At times, it can be a detriment, but late in matches, particularly when the Union are up a goal, Daniel can dictate the rate of play and pick out smart passes that keep possession. One of the few natural left-footed players on the field, Daniel’s set pieces were, if not spectacular, at least respectable.

Weaknesses

His rate of play stifled so many Union attacks this season. With an opposition turnover and the Union looking to break the other way, the attack often died at the feet of Daniel and his inability to make a quick thinking forward pass. His positioning this season was also disappointing. Given every chance to sit in front of Brian Carroll and play in the No. 10 role, Daniel was too often within just a few yards of Carroll playing as a second holding midfielder. As the season went on and the Union offense sputtered, his confidence grew shakier and shakier, eventually forcing John Hackworth to drop him to the bench.

Outlook

Daniel must improve in 2014. Only one assist in 1700+ minutes, mostly in the central midfield, is simply not good enough on a team so starved for offensive creativity. If his rate of play does not improve and he continues to struggle to break forward in the center midfielder role, he will be resigned to play on the Union bench, a possible late match substitute to see a result out. MLS is a fast league, and athleticism is further pushed by a lack of technical ability. Daniel must adapt his game to the pace of play to stand a chance of again being a regular.

2 Comments

  1. I believe that I recall a graphic at one point during the season, showing that Keon’s passing rate was OVERWHELMINGLY backward. I have watched the debates about his actual role on the field, and have held my opinion on him since I cannot be sure of whether his play is actually part of the plan. Watching the Union without him, I think that the benefit to the team of a holding midfielder that at least looks toward the sidelines to maintain possession would be incredible. Relentlessly going to the rear is absolutely going to help keep possession, but it also is why every goal is from balls played through other players on the field. Is there a statistic that shows passes leading to assists? If so, I am sure that Keon is low on that as well, since his distribution would lead only to possession and not to actual attacks from that possession.

  2. The technical staff seem to think highly of him and I’ve seen him play pretty well for his national team but the fact of the matter is that he hasn’t done anything noteworthy playing for Philly in the past two seasons. I don’t know if it is a mental thing or maybe he just doesn’t care enough. In my view he has had more than enough opportunity to get into a rhythm or get over whatever mental hurdles he has. I would prefer him being sent packing this offseason.

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