Stejskal: Borek Dockal flourishing, but questions remain for improved Union

Borek Dockal - Philadelphia Union - Fends off Vancouver defender

Two goals in his team’s last game, an MLS Player of the Week nod and the birth of a new baby?

Yeah, Borek Dockal is having quite the run.

The Philadelphia Union Designated Player is riding several huge highs ahead the club’s match at LAFC on Saturday, entering the inter-conference clash in what’s undoubtedly the best moment of his brief MLS career. He bagged a pair of goals to lead Philadelphia to a 4-0 win against previously-streaking Vancouver last Saturday, won MLS Player of the Week honors on Tuesday and, in by far the biggest news of his week, welcomed his second child on Monday night.

The new addition meant Dockal didn’t make the trip to L.A. with his Union teammates on Wednesday, though head coach Jim Curtin said he wants to be involved in Saturday’s match at Banc of California Stadium. His participation will no doubt be big for the Union’s hopes. After starting the season somewhat slowly, Dockal has come into his own over the past couple of months, recording four goals and five assists in his last seven games to help the Union to a 4-2-1 record in that stretch. He had just one goal and one assist in his first eight matches, during which Philadelphia were 1-5-2.

“We have been able to really improve as a team with our possession and have been able to create a lot of attacking chances and Borek’s at the center of that,” Curtin told earlier in the week. “He’s the quarterback, if you will, of that central midfield.”

Signed in February on loan from Chinese club Henan Jianye, Dockal’s emergence has been particularly important for a Union team that’s had gotten little from their other high-profile attackers. Striker C.J. Sapong has notably struggled in front of net this year, while winger David Accam, acquired this winter from the Chicago Fire in exchange for $1.2 million in allocation money, hasn’t recorded a single goal or assist in 14 regular season appearances.

Their struggles mirrored Dockal’s lack of early production. Though to hear Curtin tell it, Dockal, who ranks sixth in MLS with 31 chances created from open play, wasn’t necessarily playing poorly in his first couple of months in Philadelphia, he just wasn’t getting the help he needed from his teammates. Now, with Fafa Picault and Ilsinho in fine form on the wings, he’s timed his recent goal burst with better form from his attacking counterparts. That’s led to good things in Philly.

“I think it was unfair and I think I stood up for him in the moment in the beginning of the year because he got criticism that was unjust,” Curtin said. “He was actually playing well, the team was producing chances which is what his job is, we just weren’t scoring. And now we’re starting to see a few passes go our way and we’re still playing good soccer. It’s the same passes he made early in the year, but now it’s getting finished. I do agree that he has really raised his level, though. I think he’s put in really good work in training every day and he’s taking on more of a leadership role with our young players.”

Dockal’s solid recent play has been enough for the Union to sneak into the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference, but Curtin knows the team needs more if they want to qualify for the postseason. There’s a possibility that they’ll add a piece or two in the upcoming summer transfer window, potentially to the attack. Curtin wouldn’t get into details about how much money will be available for the Union, who increased their spending this offseason but still rank 15th in the league in payroll, according to the MLS Players’ Union. ,

He also said the Union, who will see sporting director Earnie Stewart leave the club on Aug. 1 to start as GM of the US men’s national team, need to get more out of Accam if they want to be in the top six in the tough East at the end of October.

“We’re confident that we can maybe get him going offensively, obviously that’s my job to get him out on the field, get him an opportunity to break out,” Curtin said. “But you have to find the right time to do it, because we are actually playing pretty well right now, so there’s a balance there. But we still have full confidence in David that he can turn it around. If we’re going to be a playoff team, he’s going to have to be on the field for us because he’s a guy who changes the way defenses prepare for you. We have some other good wingers on our team that are playing well, there’s competition, but at the end of the day we know that we need to find was to get David out there.”