CHESTER, Pa. — In the 67th minute of Saturday’s game vs. D.C. United, a huge roar came from the Talen Energy Stadium crowd as Fafa Picault perfectly controlled a lofted pass, sprinted down the sideline, attacked defender Steve Birnbaum with fearless one-one-one ambition, and sent a cross into the box.
It was the kind of razzle-dazzle that Philadelphia Union fans have come to expect from the high-flying speedster, who has energized the club since cementing his place in the starting lineup two months ago. And the best part? Picault has been putting the ball in the net, too, including in Saturday’s 1-0 win over D.C. United. He now has four goals in his last seven games.
“It’s what I’ve been doing over the years,” said Picault, who came to the Union from Germany’s FC St. Pauli in February. “And now it’s being shown over here in MLS. I just have to keep doing that.”
Picault’s 31st-minute winner was one of the best strikes of the Union's season so far, as he made a back post run and, with his left foot, cooly one-timed an Alejandro Bedoya cross past D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid. Bedoya, who’s now on his way to join the US national team for the Gold Cup, called it a “heck of a finish” from his teammate, while Union head coach Jim Curtin was thrilled to see Picault’s commitment to make a late run into the box.
“My strongest shot is usually my inside foot, especially on volleys,” Picault said. “I practice it two or three times a week. I did that a week ago to work on. It’s kind of just second nature.”
Picault admitted that it was “of course” difficult to bide his time on the bench during the first seven games of his debut MLS season. But he’s made the most of his opportunity since then, with his inclusion on the flank coinciding with the club snapping a long winless streak.
The Union are 5-3-1 in games Picault has started.
“When you do get chances to play, you have to prove why you work and what you’re worth,” the 26-year-old winger said. “And that’s what I’ve been doing.”
Perhaps the most exciting part is that Picault has only scratched the surface of his potential, according to teammates. Although midfielder Haris Medunjanin said Picault had an “amazing goal” over the weekend, he believes a lot more will come this season if the winger continues to grow into his role.
“Fafa is a great player,” Medunjanin told MLSsoccer.com. “He gives us a lot of depth in the team. He’s a fast guy. He knows where to go. Sometimes I shout at him on the field because he can do much better, because when he’s tired he tries to do something difficult.
"You need to know in this kind of situation to play simple. And because he’s fast, he can play two-touch, he can be more often in front of the goal to score goals if he just plays a little bit smarter.”