The Eastern Conference leaders’ latest offensive explosive has head coach Jim Curtin reflecting on earlier in the 2022 season, when Philadelphia seemingly couldn’t buy a goal. Now, he’s hoping their well doesn’t go dry come the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs in mid-October.
“The high scoring, it's unique, no question about that,” Curtin said. “I can remember some of the best offensive teams in the league and they don't put up this many goals, this many times and most importantly do it while keeping a clean sheet.
“That speaks to the discipline, the hunger, the desire of this group. We started with a good defensive foundation at the beginning of the year. The goals weren't coming and now the goals are really coming in bunches. I want to save some, to be honest, for the playoffs. But I'm really proud of the team.”
Philadelphia’s latest result leaves them within three points of LAFC for the Supporters’ Shield lead, having played once more than the Black & Gold (57 points vs. 54). The Union’s goal differential (+37) is by far the greatest in MLS, though, and their 57 goals scored are now the second-most behind only Austin FC (59). Their 20 goals against are 10 better than the closest team, defending MLS Cup champions NYCFC.
Cushioning those stats Saturday at Subaru Park was midfielder Daniel Gazdag, who’s on 16 goals for the year after a hat trick vs. the Rapids. That ties now-Nashville SC forward CJ Sapong for the most single-season goals in Union history, and the Hungarian international has contributed to 14 goals since the beginning of July (9g/5a), the most in MLS over the last two months.
Curtin nearly subbed Gazdag out before he could get the hat trick, though.
“I told him he had until the 85th minute – this is a true story – I dead seriously told him he had until the 85th minute if he wanted a hat trick and then I was taking him out,” the manager remarked. “And he scored I think in the 84th. So I'm really happy for him. I wanted to leave him out there to try and get that third goal for him because he deserves it. He's such an unselfish person, unselfish player.”
Gazdag’s now technically third in the MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi race, behind Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar (16g/11a) on the assists tiebreaker. They both trail Austin FC’s Sebastian Driussi (19g/7a), while FC Cincinnati's Brandon Vazquez (16/4a) is in contention as well.
Asked about that race, Gazdag (16g/8a) said he hasn’t paid too much attention to the individual chase. He just wants to keep this strong form going,
“This is my best season in my career,” said the 2021 arrival from Budapest Honvéd. “So I'm so happy right now, but I don't want to stop now. I want to keep going until the end of the season, also in the playoffs."
As Philadelphia keep meeting a high bar, Curtin said Gazdag deserves some Landon Donovan MLS MVP consideration. He feels those accolades can push his players with six regular-season games remaining, and plenty to play for.
“I talk to these guys about the end-of-the-year awards and being Best XI, and they deserve it,” Curtin said. “I'm going to continue to talk about it and I think it motivates them. I think that's why we don't stop after two or three. We're not satisfied. I think people are taking note.
“I told you guys already, I went through the list – there are so many guys here that should be Best XI, there's so many guys here that are in Defender of the Year contention. I'm really proud of that and I think that we've got to keep going.”