Fans' View

Fans’ view: Is Daniel Gazdag a true difference maker?

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

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Every Philadelphia Union fan knows that there is something missing in the final third.

While the Union have not been shut out this season, a gaping hole has been discovered in the team. This deficit limits their ability to be a great team. The tip of the diamond, the center attacking mid spot (CAM), is a weakness that must be sorted.

While many fans just look at the stats of the Union’s number 10, Daniel Gazdag–who leads the team with four goals–he is somewhat lucky to have those accolades. Throughout these past couple of games, Gazdag has seemed invisible in the offensive third. With no number 10 involved in attacks, attacks go nowhere, and the Union are repeatedly left to rely on their defense.

The problem for the Union is not the strikers, but instead the one behind them. On multiple occasions, Gazdag has been seen taking too much time with the ball and not showing his playmaking ability. When the strikers (Mikael Uhre, Julian Carranza, Cory Burke, or Sergio Santos) make a run, Gazdag’s first instinct should be to spread the defense. While we saw a glimpse of his ability with his line-breaking assist to Uhre this past weekend against Nashville, it has not been shown consistently enough throughout the season.

The two strikers leading the Union’s attack in the diamond formation are meant to work together to generate chances, but their chemistry just isn’t good enough. Too many times I have seen Gazdag play a pass to Uhre out wide. The result is that Uhre either loses the ball or has nowhere to go with it. Our strikers are meant to play through the middle, not out wide. The inability of Gazdag to connect through the middle is a problem.

“Do the Union want to be a good team or do they want to be a great team?” That’s the question often asked by Jim Curtin.

The simple answer is that they are good, but will not be great until they sign a true number 10.

Diehard Union fans dream of a number 10, someone who can make chances out of nothing and constantly get the attack flowing. Many names pop up of number 10s who can change the game with one simple through-ball. Lucas Zelarayan, Alejandro Pozuelo, Carles Gil, Emmanuel Reynoso, Nicolas Lodeiro, and Djordje Mihailovic all are the focal points in attacks upon which fans can rely. In packed stadiums, these guys make the headlines, uniting the offense. Having a dangerous number 10 worries the defense, knowing that they have to mark him. Sometimes he will even get double-teamed, which leaves someone else open.

Throughout the years, the Union have been pulled apart and left helpless by these magicians. From Pozuelo earlier this year to Federico Higuain years back, numbers 10s have completely dismantled the Union and made them look like fools.

The Union has not had a successful, true number 10 in a long time. Borek Dockal came close in 2018 as did Christian “Chacho” Maidana in 2015. The Union weren’t more than an average team those years, but these playmakers made goals happen. Roland Alberg and Tranquillo Barnetta were alright, but never constantly found good enough form. Marco Fabian spent most of his time on the bench, and Jamiro Monteiro had the skills, but was not the difference-maker that the Union needed. Brendan Aaronson was a young phenom and was always going to get sold, leaving the Union to rethink the most important spot on the field again.

The Union have the funds. From Aaronson’s and Mark McKenzie’s transfers and money accumulated over the years during the MLS SuperDraft, they surely have enough. Go out and buy a true number 10 during the summer. If not, I expect it is not long until Paxten Aaronson starts cutting into Gazdag’s time as a starter.

In the meantime, I just hope that Daniel Gazdag can prove me wrong.


  1. I think a lot of Union fans are left wondering why what looks like our most talented front line has not scored more goals. I don’t think Gazdag is the problem. In fact, I think he might be one of the most technically talented players we’ve ever had.

    One likely factor in the is simply one of timing. These guys need time to gel. Uhre just got here and had no preseason. Reading each other’s runs will take time.

    The other factor is the three midfielders behind Gazdag. We’re turning over the ball A LOT. I know possession doesn’t matter as a number unto itself, but you can’t accomplish a whole lot of attack without the ball. We’ve seen glimpses of some pretty good possessive play in attack, but we need better passing, accuracy and care to get the ball through the midfield.

    Give Gazdag more time. He’s an outstanding footballer. This front three will gel.

    • Steve 101 says:

      Couldn’t agree more pete. Thank you for the article and your fandom Benjamin but young man you are channeling some 2014 union fandom. The ball is not going in the net as much as it should and that is a problem but you can see that Gazdag, Uhre, and Carranza are getting closer every week. These three need more time together and the more of it they get, the more dangerous this attack will become. Gazdag is the 10 we need.

      PS: Please don’t mention Alberg and Barnetta in the same breath. Different caliber of player.

      Thanks again for the article.

  2. John P. O'Donnell says:

    So the Striker combination has been together for four games. Before that Santos was starting and some time Burke. In that time I’ve seen plenty of missed goals and a few games with Flach just missing passes into space or holding the ball to long. Gazdag needs minutes with the group and Curtin has provided them. That pass to Uhre was quality but also a byproduct of them playing together and developing the chemistry.
    The money from the sale of two players can’t be used to just go out and buy new players that’s not how it works in MLS. They can put I believe one million towards GAM for roster improvement from each sale. Chances are they already used one million of the on Uhre already.

  3. T.Coolguy says:

    One problem with CAM is the Union’s current system. A player like Chaco Maidana or Borek Dockal (or most of the top CAM in MLS right now) doesn’t really have the defensive or overall workrate to fit in Philadelphia’s system the way the Union want to play. And heck, as a player like Aaronson shows, if you even start at hinting you might have that total package while in MLS, you’re going to be in Europe soon.

  4. Gazdag plays the ball too often behind the runner instead of in front of them (especially in the Cincinnati match). Hopefully this has been pointed out by the coaching staff and will hopefully improve. I am holding my breath.

  5. I think Gazdag was brought in as a compliment to Kacper Przybyłko some one who can shoot and compliment his output. When it was obvious we needed to move on from him we had a shooting midfield when it is obvious we now need a creating one.
    In short when he is scoring great because Uhre and Carranza aren’t and when he isn’t scoring that sucks because Uhre and Carranza aren’t.
    He should absolutely be on the field. just not as a CAM

    • I think Gazdag was brought in to fit the system. Przybylko didn’t fit (too slow) and the Carranza and Uhre are better fits for the system.

  6. A sophomore in high school? Great stuff Ben. Keep up the writing and don’t be afraid to express your opinion.

  7. Chunky Hunky says:

    I think Gazdag fits best as a L shuttler. If Pax-Man isn’t ready up top they know what they need in July.

    Flach off the bench until Martinez is moved on.

    Daniel lacks the pace in attack to play where he is.

  8. Gazdag has a fundamental problem that currently both wing players are liabilities on offense. A rested Bedoya is very good, a tired Bedoya not so much. Flach is less than average going forward, and Martinez is also primarily defensive. He is missing one more offensive player.
    IMO, the offense looked smoother early in the season because Bedoya made more, better runs than he does now. I wish Curtin would move to a play 2 of 3 from Bedoya Flach and Martinez. If you rotate more now, you will need less later.

  9. I have felt this angst so I appreciate the words. I think gazdag is not the ten I dream of- but he works hard and gets in good spaces. As the author said I like the 10 whose vision and technique can change a game.

    • The Dream 10 is totally challenging for a team in PHL… few players in the world like that… NONE want PHL as an address.

      It’s the chemistry between Ga-Uh-Ca… and that takes time. Be patient and prudent.

      May 2022 will be a great test of many things, including Curtin’s substitutions.

      <60th minutes Jim.
      NO LATER, please.

      And NOT Cory, please.

  10. The most talented squad fielded in 12 seasons, hands down.

    Just give it time…. we’re talking a matter of weeks before it all gels.

    In Herr Tanner we trust!

    The challenge Curtin has now is adjustments, tweeking… not overhaul… and dealing with any injuries that crop up, getting replacements on the field BEFORE 60th minutes, please.

    US Open Cup, let PHL2 players handle it. Do NOT even waste #1 squad traveling to Orlando. Prepare for Brutal May to come… NYRB, Miami, Portland and NE Revs…. A character building schedule.

    Our focus determines our reality… Hosting MLS Cup 2022 in Chester! Doop!

  11. Section 114 says:

    Great article.

    My dream midfield for 2023 is a new signee as a 10, Gazdag/Aaronson/Sullivan/McGlynn as 8s (and cover at 10 and 6), and Flach as the 6.

    This team really has a back five to keep for years. All we need is a 10 and one more squad striker. At least until our young midfielders and/or Wagner get sold forward.

  12. Gazdag isn’t a traditional 10. The Union’s system of play, doesn’t require the skills of traditional 10. It requires a CAM that has an engine that runs all day at a high speed. A player who can make quick transitions of offense to defense back to offense in the blink of an eye and make that one killer pass.
    Gazdag might not be the No 10 that some fans want, but he’s the CAM that the Union need.
    Also, 1 goal and 1 assist last night. Also should have had more if some of his teammates made better runs or had better first touches,

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Beautiful comment. Alpha. Omega. The only thing missing by you here is a….Period. The end.
      Will go down as one of the best players to ever put on a Union uniform. The guy is legit. Finds great spaces. Makes timely runs. Attacks vertically –both in progressive dribbles and with his passing. Defends well. Scores. Has terrific vision. Turns defensive transition into an immediate attack. Clearly able to deliver the final ball. People are very interesting to me. The 10 is no longer a free roaming trequarista… its not even a role anymore – at least not as we once thought it.

  13. yes he is. gazdag the closest thing we have to a number 10/ playmaker . at this point he will probably be the leading goal scorer and will probably finish 2nd in assists. believe it or not wagner is on pace to be the assist leader for the second year in a row. our actual highest goals per game came in the short season. leaders in assists were aaronson sr, montiero and kacper who were all on pace to have 10 + assists in a full season

    obviously curtin has gone away from depending on an adept cam to lead the charge. if I were the opposition id be marking wagner much more. flach has no offensive skills, bedoya is a warrior but lets face it hes never been an assist machine, martinez plays too deep to be a provider.

    curtin is depending on wagner to provide service with runs up the wing and playing the role of a wide left midfielder.

    if i am an opponent. i over defend the left and shut him down.

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