Fafa Picault had goals in two of Philadelphia Union’s last three games, and he had at least two shots on goal in each one. Considering only two players in MLS — striker, winger, anyone — averages more than two shots on target per 96 minutes, and only 14 (Picault included) average more than 1.4 shots on goal per 96, this is elite attacking contribution from the wing.
But on Wednesday night, Picault went 92 minutes without a shot on frame. He powered one shot over at the end of the first half and that was it. Seattle’s defense, by far the stoutest in the league over their nine game winning streak, kept the speedy winger at bay.
However, this was not a 92 minute match, and Fafa Picault plays hard until the end.
In the 93rd minute, after Seattle delivered a ball into the Union box, Derrick Jones — playing as a makeshift center back — partially cleared his lines. Picault was back there too, and he fought for the loose ball that eventually fell to Jones again.
This time a full clearance ensued, and Jay Simpson flicked it over to Haris Medunjanin. The Bosnian put the ball forward into space for Simpson to chase down, and the substitute did just that. On the near side of the pitch, Gustav Svensson dropped to the top of the box as an outlet for his goalie in case of a back pass.
The back pass came, goalie Stefan Frei played the ball to Svensson, and out of nowhere: Picault. At full sprint and looking even faster than usual with the other 20 players on the pitch dragging, the winger nipped in front of Svensson, gathered himself, and nutmegged Frei, who had been outstanding all match to that point.
Then Picault celebrated. He had helped clear the ball, gone all the way up the pitch on the off-chance Jay Simpson would run down a loose ball up front, and put himself in position to get the winner. It was the same unbelievable effort Picault showed in Orlando, but this time it was for the win.
Fafa Picault is for real, and he’s finally getting the props he deserves. That’s why Picault was the Man of the Match in Wednesday’s huge Union win.