Daniel Gazdag was one of the busiest soccer players in the world over the last 18 months.
The Philadelphia Union midfielder played 60 matches between Honved in the Hungarian first division, the Union and Hungary's national team.
The 25-year-old finally had a chance to take a break during the short Major League Soccer offseason and he is fresh and ready to kick off the 2022 campaign on Saturday.
“It was a really long season for me. Last year, I played over 60 games. I needed the break and it was good for me," Gazdag said.
“This season is different. To sign a new player, to arrive in a new country and a new team is not the best thing for a player. I think it’s good that I’ve been here and I’ve fully adapted for the team. I know what we’re going to play on the pitch. I know everyone in the dressing room. I think that helps," Gazdag said.
The Hungarian midfielder made his debut for the Union on May 23, but he did not make a massive impact on the attack until late in the regular season.
“Last year was different. I came here during the season and I think the team already played 5-6 CCL games when I arrived. It was a bit difficult to adapt with the team during the season. This season is different from this side so I’m happy that I could spend the whole preseason with the team," Gazdag said.
Gazdag was trusted with the No. 10 role when he joined the Union, and there is more pressure on him now to succeed at that spot with Jamiro Monteiro now with the San Jose Earthquakes.
Gazdag will be relied upon to contribute more goals and assists from the No. 10 spot with a handful of young midfielders behind him on the depth chart.
“We lost Jamiro. He was a great player for us," Gazdag said. "He was an important part of the team. Now we need the young guys to come into the team, but they are really good players. They showed that last year. I think they can play with everyone here."
Union manager Jim Curtin was full of praise for Gazdag's freshness during the club's preseason trip to Florida.
“He had a really strong preseason and we hope that can continue into the regular season," Curtin said. "You see his special qualities to set up his teammates with assists and to create goals and make goals himself. He’s very dangerous in the penalty area and a special player. It’s up to us to put him on the ball more and more and he’s shown a real level of fitness that was even higher than last season and a real commitment on the defensive side. The offensive stuff will come with our team as long as we put in that hard work defensively. Daniel has done everything we’ve asked and more."
Gazdag will be asked to do more in the attacking third no matter what formation the Union are playing, whether it be the 4-4-2 or the 4-3-2-1 Christmas tree.
“When I arrived, we played in the 4-4-2 all the time," Gazdag said. "During the season, we tried to play in the Christmas tree with me and Jamiro at the two No. 10 positions. I think it was working for us. We won a lot of important games with that formation. I think both formations we played last year was good for the team."
Gazdag and his teammates come into 2022 with not just personal motivation, but an unfinished business type mentality to get back to the Eastern Conference Final, where the club's season ended in 2021.
“This year we want to show that we are a good team and reach good things," Gazdag said. "(Last year) gives us self confidence. Everybody is self confident in the building. I thin we have a good team and a great group of people. We can reach big things."