One of the most important things that you need in sports is chemistry. No, not the science class you had to take in school but the connection between players on the pitch. It takes time, and the right combination of elements to develop, and for Philadelphia Union duo Kacper Przybylko and Sergio Santos, it’s bubbling up this preseason.
"Something special seems to be developing with both Kacper and Sergio,” Union Head Coach Jim Curtin said to media Tuesday afternoon. “They are a real handful in terms of a combination of speed, power and ability to finish in the box. It’s a good and unique partnership that is improving each and every day in training and you saw it pretty good against Montreal.”
The two strikers have followed fairly similar paths since signing with the Union. Both battled injuries and scored game-winning goals during rehab stints in the USL Championship with Philadelphia Union II. And both thrived in MLS once they were healthy and firing on all cylinders. Przybylko uses both his height and technical abilities to outsmart opponents while Santos is arguably the fastest member of the Boys in Blue and possesses a strength not many his size can match. On the pitch, the duo didn’t get much time to jell and become more than the sum of their parts in 2019. But they did produce at least one epic moment that few Union fans will ever forget. Tie game. Defending champs in town. First place and a locked-in playoff spot on the line. The Boys in Blue were for a match winner, so on came Sergio Santos. Thirteen minutes later, Santos and Przybylko both had a goal and an assist. When Przybylko scored the winner, rifling a one-timer inside the upper 90 off a cross from Santos, the two strikers embraced and celebrated.
Moments later, Przybylko repaid the favor with a pass across goal to his Brazilian teammate, and Santos ripped off his jersey in elation after putting the game away. That flash of understanding is becoming a constant now, as the pair linked up once again when facing Montreal in Clearwater, Florida. The preseason goal against Thierry Henry’s Impact not only demonstrated the abilities of the two players that could anchor the Union attack, but also represented what Curtin and the rest of the technical staff hope to see when the 2020 MLS slate kicks off against FC Dallas on Saturday, February 29th.
"The goal that we scored is the ideal goal in terms of how the Philadelphia Union wants to play both with and without the ball. It starts with an intelligent ball by Jakob (Glesnes) to not only win it and clear it aimlessly but get it to Ale’s feet and, within one pass, he’s played Sergio through. A really good and hard run by Kacper and in two passes we have a 1v1 with the goalkeeper. Those are the type of goals we are aspiring to score more of this season. Very direct but comes from intelligent passes in the back to start the attack.”
MLS writer Matthew Doyle, in his build up to the start of the 2020 MLS season, proclaimed Santos was the Union’s most important player. But what’s more important for the club than any one player is to establish yet another goalscoring record, and that may very well be the result of the chemistry between a last year’s leading goals man and his talented Brazilian teammate.