On Tuesday, the Philadelphia Union announced the signing of 25-year-old Dániel Gazdag from Budapest Honvéd FC for a reported $1.8 million.
In the press release announcing his signing, Sporting Director Ernst Tanner praised his versatility, while mentioning “his aggressive style of play has made him a top finisher in the Hungarian league and a good fit for our system.” After climbing the youth ranks at Honvéd FC Gazdag made his first team debut in 2015 and has amassed 21 goals and 24 assists in 175 appearances in the Hungarian first division.
There is a clear trend developing in the recent transfer business by Ernst Tanner- find high energy, versatile players who can play multiple positions. While most view versatility as an attribute to mean ‘depth in case of injury’ there is a very important tactical importance to a versatile midfield. The Union currently use a 4-4-2 with a midfield diamond and press when in defense. Positional versatility allows for more complex build-up patterns, since the opposition is not able to simply key on a single position, or player who drives the offense.
Gone are the days where the Union were exclusively reliant on a deep-lying midfielder to spray the ball around the pitch. Additionally, having more players on the pitch who possess a goal threat is always a good thing. The potential front 5 of Santos-Kacper-Gazdag-Monteiro-Bedoya all generate scoring opportunities and should be among the most lethal attacking units in the league.
Let’s dive into some of Dániel Gazdag’s strengths and how I think he will be used in Philly.
Intelligence in the Box
Gazdag comes to Philly with the potential to play either as a forward or attacking midfielder. However, he possesses the intelligence in the box of a true center forward, with many of his goals coming off far post runs leading to easy tap in goals. While many may think the tap-in goals are easy- you must first be in the correct position to even create the tap-in opportunity, which takes a level of goal scoring intelligence most midfielders simply do not have.
In the first clip below, you can see how Gazdag recognizes the incoming cross and makes a late run for the easy finish. In the second clip, Gazdag controls the entry pass into the box, turns and correctly passes to his teammate for the easy goal. Both movements signal Gazdag is comfortable in the box, which will be very valuable to the Union regardless of where he plays.
While many Union fans will be excited about Gazdag’s goal scoring record, his passing ability is equally as exciting in my opinion. Although his assist tally is lower than you would expect, I would say that was primarily due to Gazdag being deployed more as a true forward than a midfielder.
In this clip below, Gazdag controls the ball in the midfield, and plays a tremendous pass into the channel between the fullback and center back leading to an assist. If Gazdag does play at the 10, there will be plenty of opportunities to play through-balls to the likes of Sergio Santos running in behind.
As mentioned, Gazdag spends much of his time in and around the penalty box making impressive runs to create space for himself. These runs led to goals primarily from two avenues: headers from crosses, and close-range shots. In the first clip, Gazdag finishes off a great cross by neatly slotting in the header. Yes, there should be the caveat that it was terrible defending- it should not take away from the fact that the header itself was very impressive.
In the second clip, Gazdag has a 1v1 with the keeper and scores despite being at a very tight angle.
Dániel Gazdag represents a unique and exciting prospect for the Union both as a midfield creator and as a goal scoring threat. How Jim Curtin will utilize him is still to be determined, however I know I am very excited to see how he gels with the rest of the midfielders.