Our prayers have been answered: the Union now have a bonafide number 10.
Not since the (man-bun) heady days of Tranquillo Barnetta, top-of-the-table placement, and playoff births have the Union had a genuine playmaker. For a year, they tried makeshift solutions: Alejandro Bedoya (who is really more of an 8) at the 10, Ilsinho (really a winger), Fabian Herbers (winger/striker), Roland Alberg (who had trouble staying fit) and more recently Anthony Fontana and Adam Najem. And while one of the youngsters may eventually turn into the long-term solution at that position, it was clear the Union needed someone of quality right now or face another lost season.
Enter midfielder Borek Dockal, 29, who comes to the Union on a one-year loan from Chinese side Henan Jianye. Per a Union press release, he will be a Designated Player.
The Czech international has 35 caps with the Czech national team. He’s registered 79 goals and 93 assists in 350 professional appearances spanning the Czech Republic, Turkey, Norway, and China, winning the Czech top flight twice. And if he can be the link between Bedoya and C.J. Sapong, David Accam, and Fafa Picault, then the Union attack could be something special.
Questions always remain when internationals come to MLS, however. Will they take the league seriously? Can they acclimate to the extra running and physicality? How will they handle all of the travel? The league has seen its share of talented internationals come in and flame out because of these and other factors. Will Dockal be able to adjust? If he does, Earnie Stewart may look like a genius. If not, Dockal will go down as yet another expensive failed acquisition by the Union.
Make no mistake about it, too: Dockal will be expensive. His Transfermarkt value is listed at $1.6M. A lot is riding on this signing, both financially and in terms of the Union’s season. This could be a make-or-break acquisition for the club.
For now, this is a move to be excited about. I don’t anticipate that he’ll appear in this weekend’s match, but will probably make his debut on March 17th against Columbus. Regardless, this move should give Union supporters hope for this year that they can at least make the playoffs now, and from there, who knows? Things are looking up just south of Philadelphia.