Bořek Dočkal’s long-awaited Philadelphia Union debut is expected to happen on Saturday afternoon at home against Columbus Crew. Whether that debut comes with the Czech Republic international in the starting lineup or off the bench though still remains a question mark.
“His best two days of training have been his last two days,” Curtin said during his weekly press conference on Wednesday. “Happy with where he’s at. The ankle is fully healed. It will be a matter of deciding the minute load. He’ll play a role in this game; that is 100 percent certain barring an injury or something freakish happening the rest of the way. He’ll play a role one way or another in this match; is it as a starter or is it reserve that’s still to be determined.”
Ilsinho returned to full training earlier this week so he’ll also be available for selection but with the veteran still working up his fitness after a month-long layoff with a hamstring injury it’s unlikely he’ll factor much beyond a late substitution role on Saturday if he even makes the 18.
Dočkal played his first game minutes with a majority of the starters in a scrimmage against Bethlehem Steel FC last Saturday, playing the first 45 minutes of the game.
“There was some really positive moments, but there were still moments where you see the ideas of Ale and the ideas of Haris wanting to get the ball to Borek almost maybe too much,” Curtin said.
Acquired in a loan deal with Chinese Super League club Henan Jianye F.C. in late February, the 29-year-old attacking midfielder missed the season opener with an ankle injury but one benefit of the off week last weekend was the additional training time it’s given the newcomer.
“He has qualities that a lot of guys on our team don’t in terms of his ability to play a final ball and his ability around the goal,” Curtin said. “He’s been brought here for that quality and now we have to bring the best out of him in 90 minutes.”
If Dočkal does start on Saturday, it doesn’t mean the door has closed on 18-year-old homegrown Anthony Fontana, who started and scored a goal in his 66-minute MLS debut against New England Revolution on March 3.
“We have two really good options,” Curtin said. “They’ll both play a role this week that’s for sure.”