For all the success the Union have had during Ernst Tanner’s tenure as sporting director, they’ve only sporadically had one of the key pieces of his tactical system: an attacking playmaker who’s a willing and frequent shooter.
Bořek Dočkal, who wore the No. 10 jersey when Tanner arrived in the summer of 2018, was a terrific passer but not much of a scorer. Marco Fabián definitely had a shooter’s instinct, but injuries and other factors limited what he did here – until he scored the biggest goal in Union history in the 2019 playoffs.
This year, the job has been split between Anthony Fontana, who has the instinct but not the consistency over 90 minutes; and Jamiro Monteiro, who’s better in a deeper central role than at the top of the midfield diamond.
But soon enough, the hole will be filled by a player who actually fits it: Dániel Gazdag, whose signing the Union officially announced Tuesday.
“You see all the goals and the statistics, and that obviously jumps off the page and is special, but also just the presence that he is on the field, doing whatever the team needs,” manager Jim Curtin said. “He’s a winner, and I’m really, really happy. This is a big signing for the club, and we can’t wait to get him in as quickly as possible.”
Curtin wished aloud that Gazdag’s visa application is approved fast enough that he can debut here before he likely joins Hungary’s national team for this summer’s European Championships. Gazdag would report to training camp on May 24, which isn’t much time. But if he can get here before the game at D.C. United on May 23, Curtin hinted that he’d throw him right in.
That kind of expectation is fueled by Gazdag having recorded 18 goals and eight assists over 34 games for Budapest’s Honvéd in the Hungarian season that just ended.
» READ MORE: Why Dániel Gazdag is a player the Union need
We will hear from Gazdag on Thursday, along with Tanner, who signed off on a $1.8 million transfer fee, the second-largest sum in team history. Before then, the Union will host the New England Revolution on Wednesday at Subaru Park (7:30 p.m., PHL17) in the teams’ first meeting since the Revs knocked the No. 1-seed Union out of last year’s playoffs in the first round.
That means a reunion with New England star playmaker Carles Gil, whose two goals and three assists in the postseason powered his team to an upset run to the Eastern Conference final. Striker Gustavo Bou added three goals and one assist in those four games, helping the dynamic duo justify their combined $9 million in transfer fee costs.
Gil and Bou have a particular knack for scoring from long range, which forces packed-in opposing defenses to step forward and open up. That’s a trait Curtin expects Gazdag brings to a Union team that has struggled to break down bunkered-in opponents.
It’s also a key piece of the playbook for teams that play counter-pressing soccer like the Union does. Gazdag has seen it firsthand in Hungarian national team colleague Dominik Szoboslai, whose scoring feats for Red Bull Salzburg earned him a nearly $25 million move to German parent club RB Leipzig.
Coincidentally, Aaronson inherited Szoboslai’s throne, and has taken off like a rocket in just a few months there. The Medford native already has seven goals and three assists in 22 games for Salzburg, including two on Sunday in a 3-1 win at Sturm Graz. That result put Salzburg a point from the Austrian Bundesliga title, which would give Aaronson a second trophy there after winning the Austrian Cup on May 1, a game in which he also scored.
Salzburg can clinch the title Wednesday with a home win or tie vs. Austria Wien. You can watch the game for free at 2:30 p.m. at FTFNext.com.
Time change for future game
The start time of the Union’s May 30 home game against the Portland Timbers has been moved to just after 7 p.m. so the game can be part of a national TV doubleheader on FS1. The original scheduled time was 5:30 p.m.
That game could see an expanded capacity at Subaru Park, since Pennsylvania officials announced Tuesday that outdoor venues outside Philadelphia can go to 75% capacity starting May 17. Mask-wearing will still be required and six feet of distancing will be recommended. Venues can go to full capacity starting on May 31, but after the 30th the Union don’t play at home again until late June.
» READ MORE: Union to reopen Subaru Park to full capacity June 23