Each player’s journey to Philadelphia Union is unique and the game-winning combination from last weekend’s win over Toronto -- Kacper Przybylko to Jamiro Monteiro – arrived through different routes, in some ways they are quite similar.
When the Union signed Przybylko in late September the club knew he was a top talent but they also knew that he was coming off a long-term injury.
“[Kacper] wanted a place where he could go and get minutes and that took time here,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said Wednesday. “It took him a good chunk of the end of last season and then a whole offseason before his body felt 100 percent.”
When Przybylko finally got back into a competitive match, it wasn’t with the Union. Instead, the big striker got his shot in Birmingham, Alabama as a member of Bethlehem Steel FC in the club’s league opener. The road to recover took a long time, but the ability to score never faded and Przybylko tipped in the winning goal. The goal was the German-born’s first in two years but came with yet another setback: An injured toe.
If there was one thing Przybylko knew how to bounce back from it was an injury, and he roared back into the first eleven in his second Steel FC appearance with a two-goal performance. As he got his first taste of Major League Soccer as a substitute against Montreal on April 20, Przybylko rewarded the Union with three goals in three starts while adding the winning assist on Monteiro’s goal last week at BMO Field.
“You are seeing a player that is regaining his form and is confident in his abilities right now which is a dangerous thing,” Curtin said. “He’s a very high quality striker.”
While Monteiro didn’t have to battle injuries, he would have had every right to lose confidence in his abilities after struggling to pick up minutes with his former club.
“Sometimes situations in soccer you can control and sometimes you can’t,” Curtin said about Monteiro. “And he had a situation at Metz where he was bought for a significant amount of money but they had a change a coach and that’s out of his hands.
“The new coach made a lot of changes and he was the odd man out so we saw an opportunity.”
The wait was prolonged even more by visa issues, but when finally took to the pitch at FC Cincinnati at the end of March, Monteiro immediately showed the traits that caught the Union’s eye. Since his first start at LA Galaxy, Monteiro has played all but five minutes and contributed two goals and two assists while earning a MLS Team of the Week award.
“[Jamiro] wound up being a fit and now he has a real joy and excitement to his game and he’s fit in well with the group and he likes playing with us,” Curtin said. “Both [players] are different situations. But at the end of the day, both players have a ton of quality and their ceilings are very high and could become real top players in MLS.”
The Union also have a high ceiling this season, and Curtin has asked his players to reach that ceiling so that Philly’s fans can turn Talen Energy Stadium into a wild atmosphere for a home playoff game.
Przybylko and Monteiro will take the field again this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET when the Union face off with Seattle Sounders.