Daniel Gazdag rounding into form for Philadelphia Union playoff push


Daniel Gazdag has not had much time to stop over the last 15 months.

The Philadelphia Union midfielder was involved in a relegation fight with Honved in his native Hungary, played a part in Hungary's national team setup and helped his current club earn the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

:”It’s been a crazy year for me," Gazdag said on Friday. "I started my year in Budapest with my old team. I joined Union at the end of May. I played without a holiday during that time because I immediately came here and started to play with the Union. I didn’t stop. Game by game I felt better with myself here and now I can say I’m adapted to the team."

Gazdag was linked with the Union during the spring, but it was revealed at the start of his Union tenure that he stayed in Hungary with Honved to help the club through its relegation fight.

Gazdag scored 13 goals for Honved during its 10th-place finish in the Hungarian top flight. He played in Honved's final game against league leader Ferencvaros on May 8.

Two weeks later, Gazdag made his Philadelphia debut as a substitute against D.C. United.

“It was a different feeling to play in Hungary against relegation," Gazdag said. "This was the first year we played against relegation and were in that situation. That was not easy. Here, it is different. We play for big things. We played in the Champions League and got into the semifinals. That was a good run for us."

Gazdag did not get a chance to take a break when Major League Soccer was off in June. He was included in Hungary's preliminary squad for Euro 2020. He did not make the squad because of an injury that brought him back to Philadelphia.

For most of the summer, Gazdag worked on building chemistry with the Union's attackers, mainly Jamiro Monteiro, who he has been paired with recently in Jim Curtin's 4-3-2-1 formation.

“When I arrived, I saw in the first training that Miro is a very good player," Gazdag said. "I enjoy playing with him. In the first games we were together, we didn’t know each other very well. We didn’t know how the other player will move. We needed some time and I think we are in a good way and we played well together in the last few games."

Gazdag scored in the August 8 win over Toronto FC, but he did not hit his stride until two months later against Minnesota United.

The 24-year-old bagged a pair of goals in the 3-2 loss on October 20 and he has not looked back since. He scored in the 2-0 win over FC Cincinnati and then found the back of the net in consecutive games for Hungary against San Marino and Poland at the end of the UEFA World Cup qualifiers group stage.

“After that goal, I felt much better," Gazdag said. "I was working hard in the trainings and in the games, but I felt I was a bit unlucky sometimes. After that goal, it changed. We saw after that I was better."

“Quality players on national teams can make the difference (in the postseason)," Union manager Jim Curtin said. "You see Daniel Gazdag right now scoring big goals for his country. I thought the goal he scored against Poland was special. Again, he’s in good form."

Gazdag had four goals and five assists in 1,337 regular-season minutes. Curtin noted how special the Hungarian's season would have been if he played an entire season in one spot.

“If you do factor out the statistics and you break them down. Daniel, while he has four goals and five assists this year, it’s only in 1300 minutes," Curtin said. "If you quantify that over a season, you’re looking at pretty close to double-digit goals and double-digit assists, which is something that is not easy to do in this league."

“I think he is getting acclimated to the league, his teammates at a very important time," Curtin said. "To score goals for Hungary and help them have success is important too. He came back into training and he has been very sharp. He’s a high quality player and you are just starting to see how dominant he can be."

The next challenge for Gazdag is the MLS Cup Playoffs, which begin on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET when the Union face the New York Red Bulls at Subaru Park.

The playoff concept is a new one for Gazdag to grasp, but he has heard about what to expect from his fellow countrymen that have played in Major League Soccer.

“It’s different because in Europe we don’t have this type of playoff games. We just have the regular season, but I’m happy we’re in the playoffs because this is why I’m here," Gazdag said.

The format is new for Gazdag, but the goal is not. The midfielder came to the Union to win big games and he has that opportunity in front of him, starting on Saturday.

"This is why I came here. I want to play in big games and I want to win big games with this team," Gazdag said.


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