Daniel Gazdag

As of late, the 2022 Landon Donovan MLS MVP race has been billed as a two-horse race between Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar and Austin FC’s Sebastian Driussi.

Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin feels that frontrunning duo is actually Mukhtar and Daniel Gazdag, his own team’s No. 10.

The Hungarian midfielder provided one goal and one assist in Saturday night’s 5-1 win over Orlando City SC, pushing his club-record goal contributions total to 28 (19g/9a). That’s ahead of Driussi (27; 20g, 7a) and behind Mukhtar (33; 22g, 11a).

“He's up there and he should be considered,” Curtin said, lobbying for Gazdag. “They're both amazing and they've both had amazing seasons, Mukhtar and him. But I think that's probably who it's going to come down to and I think I'll at least bring that up for my guy.”

Gazdag, who joined Philadelphia in 2021 from Hungarian side Honved, has now scored in six consecutive home MLS matches and five straight overall. In contrast. He had 4g/5a across 23 games (17 starts) during his introductory campaign.

But Curtin feels what makes the 26-year-old so electric is the defensive part of his game. And it’s helped Philadelphia seize the Supporters’ Shield lead over LAFC through Week 30, sitting atop the Eastern Conference table and remaining undefeated (11W-0L-5D) at home with a league-leading 68 goals scored and +46 goal differential.

“What I'd say about Daniel is the work he does defensively, which does not show up usually in MVP voting, I ask everyone who has a vote to watch just how much this guy does off the ball,” Curtin said. “The ground that he covers, the way he takes away the other team's almost two sixes in games.

“So yes, the goal contributions are record numbers for Daniel and I love seeing him score and I love seeing him get assists, but if you talk around MVP – most valuable player – and doing all the things that game involves, on the defensive side Daniel's as good as anyone in this league.”

Gazdag is joined in Philadelphia’s attack by strikers Julian Carranza and Mikael Uhre, the club’s two Designated Players. And he’s, at the bare minimum, pushing for a Best XI nod alongside teammates like goalkeeper Andre Blake, left back Kai Wagner, defensive midfielder Jose Martinez and more.

However the MVP voting shakes out through Decision Day on Oct. 9, Curtin will keep advocating for his players.

“I think it's obviously going to come down to [Gazdag] and Mukhtar for the MVP of the league,” Curtin said. “Andre's probably sprinkled in there, pushing and still involved as well. But they just don't like goalkeeping.”