CHESTER, Pa. – This past week, for the first time since early July, Keon Daniel started consecutive games.
The Philadelphia Union midfielder responded by putting in arguably his two best performances of the season – and maybe even of his two-year MLS career.
“Keon is a fantastic player and he’s always been a fantastic player,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “I think it showed in the last two games why everyone in the locker room and coaching staff feel that way. In consecutive games, he’s contributed in every possible way. He’s a class soccer player.”
Daniel was especially effective in Saturday’s 1-0 victory over the New England Revolution at PPL Park. The 25-year-old Trinidadian was sharp on his crosses and set pieces all night, setting up the game’s only goal with a well-placed free kick to the back post that found the head of a streaking Jack McInerney.
“I have always had that on my résumé,” Daniel said of his crosses. “I think it’s just getting comfortable and getting reps at it. The more reps you get, I think it gets easier.”
Daniel’s reps have indeed been somewhat sporadic this season. He’s started roughly half of the team’s games and has sometimes looked out of place in Hackworth’s 4-3-3 formation.
But on Saturday, the Union manager had nothing but praise for the experienced international player who has more than 50 caps for his native Trinidad and Tobago.
“I think he played both sides of the ball with class,” Hackworth said. “He was really good in possession and going forward. He joined the attack and his service, especially on set pieces, was excellent and consistent. But he did a lot of work to get back and his intensity was right. I think it’s been something he’s struggled with – the intensity in this league. He’s certainly stepped up in that regard.”
Whether or not that means Daniel is in Hackworth’s plans moving forward remains to be seen. But the Trinidadian made it clear in the locker room following Saturday’s game that he hopes to remain in Philadelphia.
“Of course I’m happy to be here,” he said. “I love being here. I call this my home – my second home.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.