WASHINGTON — We haven’t seen too much of Dániel Gazdag the soccer player, but it says some good things about Gazdag the person that we saw him at all Sunday night.
Gazdag played the last 28 minutes of the Union’s 1-0 win at D.C. United, 23 in regulation plus a nervy five of stoppage time. He did so after arriving in Philadelphia just a few days ago, with only enough time to take part in one practice Saturday at Subaru Park. And he’s not likely to stay for long since Hungary’s European Championship training camp starts this week.
“I think it shows his commitment to the team, to the badge, to the fans, to his teammates in the locker room,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “When he first got off the plane, the first thing I said to him [was] ‘You know, let’s see how you feel. Get through all the physicals and the paperwork and all that stuff.’ And I said, ‘What do you think about getting thrown in there for 15, 20 minutes or something?’ ”
The answer, Curtin said, came promptly: “Of course. Why not? I’m here to play and help.”
» READ MORE: Analysis and observations on the Union's 1-0 win
If it was tough to get a read on Gazdag’s contributions, it would have been tough to get a read on any newcomer in a game like this one. D.C. was able to impose the fast-paced, chaotic style that its new manager, Hernán Losada, prefers. It took well-timed interventions by Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, and Andre Blake to preserve the Union’s remarkable record of shutouts in every road game so far this year.
Yes, you read that right: In five away contests across the Champions League and MLS, the Union have conceded zero goals. That’s rare for any MLS team, not just this one.
But from the moment that word got out Saturday of Gazdag’s availability this weekend, he was the top storyline. That’s what you get when you command the second-highest transfer fee in Union history, nearly $1.8 million; and are ticketed to play soccer’s most glamorous position, midfield playmaker.
“There’s not a lot we can implement with him in terms of tactics or anything like that, but we saw in day one of training just the quality he has around the goal, the quality he has in possession,” Curtin said. “I’m happy Dániel was able to get that first acclimation with the group. … We trust him already.”
Gazdag’s box-score line was understandably a bit sparse since the Union were trying to hold on to their lead late as much as they wanted to expand it. He recorded only nine touches and 2-of-2 passing, but one of those passes was in a nice give-and-go with Cory Burke. (The shot on Gazdag’s box-score line was credited to him incorrectly.)
“I thought he did his job,” Curtin said of his new big-ticket signing. “Did good hard work for us defensively. You saw some glimpses of what he can bring to the group. And then you also saw maybe some of his teammates not being on the same page, which is natural.”
It will be a while before that chemistry gets better because Gazdag won’t be back in Philadelphia until Hungary’s Euros run is done in late June. His next game for the Union probably won’t be until July 3.
But the team got a taste of what he can bring. Given how unexpected it was to get the taste at all, that should help tide fans over until he returns.