The Union are Being Linked to…. a Really Good Player?

Photo Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

You know me.

I constantly rip the Union for performing like a small market team.

But pulling this off would be a big market move:

Dude is good.

He’s really good, a 29-year-old attacking midfielder and Mexican international currently playing for Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany.

He’s been limited recently due to a back issue and really has not played much. The Union are gonna have to do their due diligence here, and if they get it right they’re bringing in a guy who finished the 2016-17 season with seven goals and four assists. He has 72 goals and 46 assists in 317 career games with Frankfurt, Cruz Azul, and Chivas de Guadalajara, plus nine goals in 42 appearances for Mexico.

Fabian can play wide, but he’s primarily a central attacking midfielder (CAM) and would be used in that position here in Philadelphia.

The Union are in their first preseason under new Sporting Director Ernst Tanner, and they ran out what appeared to be a 4-4-2 diamond against Red Bull last week, just judging by the lineup graphic and the names listed.

If Fabian signs, you would probably see something like this, after the jump:

You can throw Fafa Picault or David Accam in there for Burke. There are two striker spots for five players, so we’ll see who wins the opening day gigs.

But I think this is basically what they’re trying to do, which is a 4-4-2 diamond where the wide midfielders are more like box-to-box eights who play purposefully narrow as a defensive blanket.

Let me try to explain in more simple terms:

Because Haris Medunjanin is not a defensive-minded player, but likes to operate from deep positions, you have to put somebody next to him to help out when the team loses the ball. Philly really struggled with transitional defense last year, which basically turned into Alejandro Bedoya running his butt off and trying to put out fires.

The concept here is that the wide midfielders tuck inside to shield your six, then Fabian is the tip of the diamond and creative playmaker who gets your strikers involved.

Two teams that played similar shapes were Real Salt Lake and AC Milan (when they were good), and if you follow me on Twitter, you know I’ve been blathering on about both of those clubs as case studies for what I think the Union are trying to do.

Here’s an example of how the Union shape would overlay with AC Milan from 2005:

Same thing, right?

AC Milan had a similar player to Medunjanin in Andrea Pirlo, i.e. a wonderful deep-lying passer who didn’t play a lick of defense.

So what Carlo Ancelotti did was bracket Pirlo with two box-to-box midfielders in Clarence Seedorf and Gennaro Gattuso, which would alleviate Pirlo’s defensive liabilities.

Real Salt Lake did kind of the same thing with Kyle Beckerman playing the deep end of the diamond, with Javier Morales at the point and guys like Ned Grabavoy and Will Johnson as the “wide” midfielders. In this shape, the width comes from your fullbacks more than your “wide” midfielders.

It’s an interesting concept, and again, I don’t know if this is what they want to do moving forward or if it’s preseason experimentation, but I just wrote 569 words about it anyway.

Here’s a Marco Fabian highlight reel:

By the way, if any of you soccer-hating cockroaches wanna talk shit in the comments section, don’t. Keep my name out of your mouth.


16 Responses

  1. ZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

    Kinkster: wouldn’t it be better to get like, a real job and not have to work 2 or 3?

  2. I blocked the Union out of my life this past year so I haven’t been keeping up on what the team is doing but based off your projected lineup is Sapong finally on the bench? Is he even on the team anymore? I have been out of the loop clearly.

  3. why even have Medunjanin in there? Put Jones in the back and then you don’t need to cover for him. Can put Fafa and Accam (sometimes) out wider and let them attack with speed to put balls into the box for Santos and Burke. I was hoping for Fontana getting a run at the top of the diamond but Fabian will fit well.

    1. I just built the graphic based on the idea that I think they still want to have him as their #6. If not, I’d just play a different shape entirely, like a flat 4-4-2 or something similar.

      1. I didn’t mean you, I meant the Union. Flat I can get behind so the other guys can get in there.
        Fafa, Fontana, Fabian, AAronson/Accam. That could work

  4. Excellent article man. What I didn’t see you address was the Aaronson/Fontana situation. We essentially have two highly rated homegrown players who play Fabián’s position. Are they going to spend (Fontana at least) another whole season barely setting foot on the pitch?

    1. Seems that way, doesn’t it? I wonder if they like either guy as an 8, and if you might be able to drop them a little deeper instead

    2. To be fair, if Fabian’s injury issues aren’t completely behind him then he will absolutely need to be rotated a lot, so he might well be the best possible starting CAM that Aaronson and Fontana could have ahead of them (because going into the new season with only two teenagers to replace Dockal is the sort of cheap move that Union fans have been yelling at the FO and ownership about for years.)

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