Kacper Przybylko is fully recovered now from the stress reaction in his left foot that sidelined him during the Union’s playoff run. But the Union’s leading scorer this year isn’t fully over having to miss those games, and the history his team made — and could have made.
“It was the unluckiest time to be injured, but right now I’m ready to be back on a pitch,” Przybylko said as he went through some end-of-season workouts at the Union’s practice facility. “I want to support the team all the time, but just watching and not helping on a field is the worst time, I think, for every soccer player. I was happy that they won the first playoff game at home, but in Atlanta [in the conference semifinals], I think there was more.”
Przybylko still isn’t sure exactly what caused the pain that surfaced during pregame warmups for the regular-season finale against New York City FC. He has a hunch though: he played every minute of the three-games-in-a-week road trip from Sept. 23-29 that preceded the Oct. 6 NYCFC game.
“It was a short period of time to come back to be fit for the next game,” he said. “I was trying my best, but most of the time when I just went back on the pitch doing more, giving more pressure on the foot, it just hurt. And I don’t want to help the team just with 60% because everyone would just look bad.”
The season as a whole, though, produced far more good memories than bad. Przybylko finally overcame a series of right foot injuries that kept him out of games for more than a year, and delivered 15 goals for the Union and 3 for Bethlehem Steel. He had four multiple-game scoring streaks, and never went more than three without finding the net.
And in late August, he got some job security when the Union picked up his 2020 contract extension.
“I’m not playing to prove [to] somebody. … I just play because I have so much fun,” he said. “The injury was [at] the worst time, an unlucky time, but I think the most part was just to prove myself, hey, you still have quality, just show it. And I don’t really care about what other people think about me.”
Now Przybylko has time to rest, get his offseason workouts in and prepare for the 2020 preseason, which will start in January. He knows the bar will be raised, and one of the key points will be building chemistry with fellow forwards Andrew Wooten and Sergio Santos.
“The preseason is the best to get the chemistry [with] all the guys here,” he said. “This season went well, so I think next season we have also the same opportunity.”
Przybylko knows there will be roster turnover over the winter, but he hopes some of the players whose futures are uncertain end up staying in Philadelphia. He knows, too, that some of those decisions are the team’s. But that didn’t stop him from doing a little bit of public lobbying.
“If it’s a whole new team, we need a whole preseason just to work on it, and then also maybe the beginning of the new season to find good chemistry," he said. “I hope that most of the guys who played here in such a good season will stay.”