Daniel welcomes challenge to kickstart Union offense
CHESTER, Pa. – The Philadelphia Union have not been able to find the back of the net in their past two games. But they may have just found a playmaking midfielder who will be able to create goals moving forward.
Last weekend against Vancouver, Keon Daniel generated a few good scoring chances with well-placed corner kicks and also had one of the club’s two shots on frame with a blast that was saved by Whitecaps goalkeeper Joe Cannon. That performance came a week after the Trinidadian possessed the ball well in space in a 1-0 loss to Chicago.
Is he the kind of playmaker the Union need in the midfield?
“I think that’s for me to take on my shoulders,” Daniel told MLSsoccer.com. “I’m experienced enough.”
After last Saturday’s game, Union manager Peter Nowak dished out serious praise for Daniel, who played 86 minutes against the ’Caps as a right winger. In Chicago, the 25-year-old played mostly on the left side of the midfield.
“He was very good,” Nowak said. “I think he’s more comfortable with [fullback Sheanon Williams] on the right side, even if he is a natural left-footed guy. It was a great performance.”
Daniel, who was mostly used a reserve last season – his first in MLS – and missed the final 10 games of the year because of a visa issue, didn’t figure to be a starter in 2012, in part because of Philly’s crowded midfield situation.
But with Freddy Adu out for a couple of games because of Olympic qualifying and Roger Torres still working to become a 90-minute player, Daniel has played more minutes than any other midfielder aside from Brian Carroll, Gabriel Gómez and Michael Farfan.
“I am pretty happy,” Daniel said. “During the preseason, I was working hard and I’m still working hard in training. I’m trying to be the player people know that I am. It took me a little while to learn the league and stuff but that’s over now. So it’s time for me to shine.”
He also thinks the team’s offense is ready to shine, even if the Union have scored just twice through their first four games.
“It’s just a matter of time,” Daniel said. “We’re working hard as a team. We’re committed. Guys are backing up each other. We just have to keep working hard, keep doing what we’re doing and we know we’ll make things work.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.