clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Is Bořek Dočkal one and done?

Dockal’s success in MLS and captaining his country is only driving up his price

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Houston Dynamo vs Philadelphia Union Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

From questionable acquisition to early season bust to star of club and country, Bořek Dočkal’s 2018 season has been a paradoxical lesson for Philadelphia Union fans in both patience and urgency.

It required patience to see the 30-year-old Czech Republic international find his footing with his new team when he was still a somewhat unknown quantity back in March and it now requires a bit of urgency as fans face the very real prospect that his loan from the Chinese Super League is a one-off.

An MVP candidate who leads the league with 17 assists, Dočkal’s transfer to Major League Soccer has proven a smart career move that has helped him raise his profile both in the U.S. and abroad. He was recently given the senior national team captaincy for the first time in his career in a pair of UEFA Nations League matches, which ended in a 2-1 win over Slovakia with him assisting both goals and a 1-0 loss to Ukraine.

His successful return to the international stage makes the prospect of him returning to the Union seem even less likely.

One of the first questions new sporting director Ernst Tanner was asked in his first press conference since officially taking over the job was about Dočkal, to which he responded that keeping him was “first choice” while also saying that if they aren’t able to keep him “it is not the biggest problem.”

No doubt fans will ask about the star midfielder at tomorrow night’s Town Hall event being hosted at the TruMark Financial Club at Talen Energy Stadium (more information here). His play leading the offense is a big reason why the Union find themselves not only guaranteed a playoff game with two games remaining but in good shape to host a first round game.

His price tag — he’s already the highest paid player in franchise history at $1.7 million — will likely be even higher than it was when the Union were negotiating a deal to bring him in for the season from Henan Jianye, the Chinese Super League club that shelled out $9 million in transfer fees to acquire him from Sparta Prague less than two years ago. The loan deal came without an option to buy so a new loan or transfer deal will have to be worked out to bring him back to Chester in 2019.

While the fee Henan Jianye paid was inflated — his value on TransferMarkt is listed at $2.3 million (up from about $2 million when he was acquired) — it’s hard to imagine a team that’s been as thrifty as the Union have been in the transfer market putting up enough cash to satisfy the Chinese club. Now that he’s a proven playmaker in MLS, there will likely be other suitors within the league as well.

Tanner likely already has other potential replacements in mind to fill the all-important No. 10 position before 17-year-old Brenden Aaronson is ready to be an every day first team starter. If nothing else his comments from his press conference suggest he’s considering the reality of the situation.

Whether he returns or not, the Union’s hopes at making more than just a brief cameo in the postseason rest in large part on Dočkal’s shoulders. He’s already helped led the team to their best season (statistically speaking) in franchise history. What more can he accomplish if this ends up being his only season in blue and gold?