It took a lot of patience — and probably a lot of behind-the-scenes wrangling — to bring Borek Dockal to Philadelphia. The Union knew that another season with Ilsinho and Roland Alberg at the creative midfield position wouldn’t cut it, and Ale Bedoya was looking more comfortable in a box-to-box role than the advanced position.
Dockal was identified as a perfect fit: A veteran who could bed in quickly, loved to play through lines — a necessity for a club that was looking to exploit their speed on the wings — and met all the criteria the Union’s internal, data-driven (and scouting-supported) highlighted as key.
And then, after the ID process, there was the wait. For the deal to shake out, for Dockal to arrive and get up to fitness, and for the rest of the roster to jell with their new attacking hub.
Now Borek Dockal has finished the 2018 regular season as the top assist provider in Major League Soccer. So yeah, it was worth the wait.
In breaking the Union’s club assist record, Dockal showed he was a special talent. But in putting up 18 assists over 2300+ minutes and 30 starts, the man that recently pulled on the Czech Republic captain’s armband achieved something exceedingly rare in MLS.
Since the Union began play in 2010, only two players in the league have eclipsed Dockal’s 18 assist mark: Sacha Kljestan (20) and Landon Donovan (19).
Putting Dockal’s achievement in this context shines light on what a truly remarkable achievement it is. Both Kljestan and Donovan played for teams that were absolute attacking juggernauts, with Donovan’s Galaxy leading the league in goals scored in 2014 and Kljestan’s Red Bulls finishing second (by one) in goals scored to NYCFC. Both players were feeding strikers that were rightly considered among the best and most consistent finishers in MLS, with Robbie Keane — Donovan’s most common assist recipient — winning the 2014 MVP award and Bradley Wright-Phillips — Kljestan’s most likely partner in crime — finishing (along with Kljestan) in the top three in MVP voting.
Donovan, in 2014, assisted 27.5% of his team’s goals. Kljestan helped on 32.8% of Red Bulls’ tallies in 2016. Dockal? 36.7%. The Union brought him in to be the creative heart of their team, and they got exactly what they expected.
While those that, since 2010, have surpassed Dockal’s achievement have done so by playing Robin to the league’s resident Batman. Philly’s Czech maestro dominated the league as part of a club that lost their highest profile attacker to season-ending surgery and finished outside the top 10 in the league in goals scored.
Longer-term perspective? Dockal has the sixth most assists in MLS this century and is tied for the 9th most in league history. His achievement is special, and it was a big part of why the Union are back in the playoffs for the second time in two seasons.
Here’s how Dockal’s assists break down:
Games with Assist: 13
Multiple Assist Games: 5
Game-Winning Assists: 5
- Montreal (away)
- Chicago (home)
- Houston (away)
- NYC (home)
- Minnesota (home)
Number of Different Goalscorers: 8
- Burke (7)
- Bedoya (3)
- Ilsinho (3)
- Elliott (1)
- Epps (1)
- Picault (1)
- Sapong (1)
- Trusty (1)
Most Assists in One Month: 5 (May)