MLS Insider: Tom Bogert

Why the Philadelphia Union believe Daniel Gazdag was the right signing

The short version of why the Philadelphia Union felt compelled to acquire attacking midfielder Daniel Gazdag from Honved can be summarized in a tweet.

You can see it all in the highlight reel the club posted with the announcement of Gazdag's signature. The Hungary international scores goals, creates chances and regularly leaves defenders on the wrong side of goals. Gazdag had 13 goals and six assists in 30 appearances this year, the driving force keeping Honved from relegation.

It's why he was just named player of the year for the Hungarian top flight this season.

"There were so many positives, we were really forced to fetch him," Union sporting director Ernst Tanner said with a grin on a virtual press conference.

The longer version is, obviously, more nuanced.

Gazdag had been on the Union's radar for a while. In addition to his impressive box score numbers, the club believe he'll fit right into their high-energy, high-pressing tactics. He should provide a great fit alongside players like Jamiro Monteiro, Alejandro Bedoya, Kacper Przybylko, Sergio Santos or whoever else he combines with. The natural No. 10 can also play as a second striker or deeper in the midfield, giving head coach Jim Curtin plenty of options.

Plus, as always in these types of deals, the timing was right for the 25-year-old to depart his boyhood club for a new adventure after 212 appearances as well as six with the Hungary national team.

“We’ve been following him for quite some time," Tanner said. "It’s a great option for him to come to the United States, to a new environment. He’s basically been at Honved since he was 14. He was looking for a new challenge in a bigger country, a bigger environment, a bigger league.”

The Hungarian league isn't one MLS clubs often mine for talent, though Daniel Salloi joined the Sporting KC academy as a teenager from there and FC Dallas recently acquired Szabolcs Schön from MTK Budapest, but it's a market Tanner is familiar with. During his time at RB Salzburg, Tanner often scouted the youth ranks in Hungary, most notably signing Dominik Szoboszlai, who broke into the Salzburg first team and earned a quick transfer to RB Leipzig this winter. Following his departure, former Union standout Brenden Aaronson largely took his place in the starting XI when he arrived in Austria this winter.

“I had multiple other options in Europe, I chose MLS because it’s a developing league," Gazdag said. "I considered that and for my family, I thought it’d be a great choice."

This deal had been in the works for a bit, but the Union agreed to wait for Honved to ensure safety from relegation before Gazdag could come. They continue to wait through the visa and travel process that has been complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Gazdag has yet to travel to the United States.

The Union face the Red Bulls on Saturday (7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+) then have two more games before MLS takes a quick break in action in June, at which time Gazdag is expected to join Hungary for the European Championships. The player and club are still hopeful he'll be able to arrive in Philadelphia and play a game or two before heading on international duty.

“I spent almost all of my time at Honved, it’s going to feel a little strange the first couple of days," Gazdag admitted. "But I’m very excited for this opportunity.”