When the Union were in need of goals, Cory Burke stepped up. When David Accam was struggling, Fafa Picault came through on the wing. And when left back looked like a position of concern, Ray Gaddis filled in without missing a beat. But the team's MVP was Borek Dockal. Not simply for what he did in 2018 as the league leader in assists, but for how he filled the club's greatest on-field need from a year earlier, helping to elevate them to the playoffs and a US Open Cup final.
Dockal was recruited to be a volume player: He needed to look for the final pass and, when it didn't come off, continue looking for it. He had to take the creative burden off of Haris Medunjanin so Philly could possess closer to the opponent's goal. He had to turn the threat offered by Fafa Picault's speed and Ilsinho's dribbling into tangible outcomes.
In the process, the Czech playmaker helped reveal to Union fans just how good Ale Bedoya can be, providing the captain with opportunities to get forward and combine up the right. He helped Keegan Rosenberry recover his form after a difficult sophomore season, and he helped Cory Burke take the giant step from USL Major League Soccer. And on a young team that needed guidance on how to keep an even keel over the course of a long, draining season, Dockal led by example. Even after mistakes, he wanted the ball again. That self-belief, shared by Medunjanin, Bedoya, Picault, and Ilsinho, was the sauce in which Philly's playoff run simmered. The Union suffered setbacks, but even after losing to NYCFC on the final day of the season, the entire locker room believed they could head back to New York City and get a win in the playoffs. When the result went to the home side, it was because they were the better team on the night, not because the Union questioned themselves.
That was the attitude Dockal brought to the locker room, and whether he stays in Philly next year or not, it's one that will be carried on by Auston Trusty, Mark McKenzie, Matt Real, Anthony Fontana, and Derrick Jones. The young core saw how the Czech man handled himself, and it will guide them in the future.
Dockal was the team MVP in 2018, but no matter what happens in the offseason his legacy will live on in how the Union's young core approaches each and every game.