The Union has come into 2022 on fire. Winning 4 of 5 and finding themselves alone on top of the Eastern Conference. At the center of the success is team-leading goalscorer Daniel Gazdag. Let’s dive in on why Gazdag is finally breaking out after a down first year last year.

The Union has been the most successful team in MLS over the past 3 seasons. Over that span, they have amassed the most points out of any other team. While they have a supporters shield trophy to show for it, the teams’ success has mostly come up short.

It has always felt like the Union was missing 1 piece that could lead them to MLS Cup glory. Maybe that someone is record signing Mikael Uhre. Or maybe, that someone has been right in front of our eyes for the past year.

Daniel Gazdag

The Union signed Daniel Gazdag in May of last year. He was signed as a midfielder to bolster the Union attack last year. However, his first year did not go too well.

First, he was to share the field with Jamiro Monteiro. Miro as the 10 and Gazdag on the left of the midfield diamond. That position didn’t really benefit Gazdag’s skill and playstyle.

Then with injuries up top, Gazdag and Miro had a run as dual #10s. The two still had a rough time meshing with each other.

Now Gazdag’s struggles were not solely due to being paired with Miro. Gazdag also struggled when he had a run as the sole Union #10 while Miro was away from the team.

Why Gazdag has Exploded to Start the Season

Gazdag has found great success so far this season for many reasons.

For starters, he has had a full season to get used to MLS defenses. Also, he’s had a full off-season to engulf himself with his teammates and his surroundings.

Secondly, he has been put into a position that best suits his playstyle. With the addition of Julian Carranza paired with Sergio Santos, Gazdag has a pair of lethally fast strikers to play with. Those 2 stretching the field is allowing Gazdag a lot of space in that attacking midfield as the unquestioned #10. This brings us to our next and biggest point.

A Completely Different Way of Playing the #10

Daniel Gazdag is the best #10 that fits the Union’s playstyle. This is no knock on Jamiro Monteiro or any other past Union #10s, but Gazdag is playing the 10 in a way the Union has been missing for years.

When you have Andre Blake in goal, a backline of Glesnes and Elliott, and one of the best Defensive Midfielders in Jose Martinez, you can have the #10 be aggressive offensively. You don’t need to rely on Gazdag to stay in the midfield. Gazdag has realized this and it is benefiting the Union attack tremendously.

Gazdag is sometimes making runs as almost a 3rd striker that is sitting back in the midfield. Being aggressive going towards the goal. It is a completely different style that Miro played the 10 and it is much better for the way Jim Curtin’s diamond operates.

Miro plays the 10 as a facilitator. There is nothing wrong with that, but it isn’t really what the Union needed. Where Miro would hold up play and look for passing options, or sit in the midfield and wait for the ball, Gazdag is progressing the attack or making runs into the box we never saw Miro make.

The best example of those would be Gazdag’s goal against NYCFC in week 4. Gazdag, instead of wanting the ball outside of the box to set up a play like Miro would have likely been, he makes a far-post run past the defense, creating an open shot on the far post for a goal. I can’t tell you the last time I saw a Union #10 make a run like that.

Instead of sitting in the midfield and waiting for the ball, Gazdag is making progressive and aggressive runs to continue a building attack.

Gazdag has 4 goals in 5 games this year. Miro had 9 in his whole tenure here.

Let me be clear this is no shot at Miro. Every player will play the #10 differently. However, the way Daniel Gazdag has been playing the 10 is what the Union has been missing for years.

It Could Get Better

The Union offense is rolling without its record signing Mikael Uhre. Uhre should be healthy to start soon. Uhre can open up the field even more for Gazdag. While Gazdag will have Uhre and Carranza up top to bounce off of.

The Union is tied at the top of MLS with LAFC. They even have a claim as the best team in the league. Daniel Gazdag’s emergence in a system that benefits him is a big reason for it.

 

Featured Image: Wes Sheperd/PHLSportsNation

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