Philadelphia Union's John Hackworth says Cristian Maidana can be "impact player" despite struggles

CHESTER, Pa. – As one of the only Designated Players ever signed by the Philadelphia Union, Cristian Maidana was expected to make an immediate impact in MLS.

But that’s yet to happen for the Argentine playmaker, who has zero goals and two assists through the first nine games of the season and has yet to play a full 90 minutes.

So what’s gone wrong for Maidana?

“Cristian, first and foremost, has to adapt to the level of fitness of the players in this league,” Union manager John Hackworth said during his weekly press conference Tuesday. “There’s a reason why he hasn’t gone 90. And we’ve been working on his fitness since he arrived. That has been an issue.”

Despite the fact that Maidana hasn’t played more than 80 minutes in a game since the first week of the season, Hackworth said his fitness has gotten better as the Union staff continues to “invest a lot of time” on the issue.

But part of the problem is Maidana’s nutrition and sleep habits away from the practice field, Hackworth said. In other words, for him to change the amount of playing time he's getting, he first needs to change his lifestyle.

"It’s a different culture,” Hackworth said. “In Argentina, I think you eat dinner some time between 11:30 and 12:30, 1 [in the morning]. His kids, when they first moved here were bouncing off the walls at 12:30 and 1 [in the morning]. All of these cultural habits have to be adjusted.”

On the field, Hackworth said, there are also some aspects to his game Maidana needs to improve. While his creativity and offensive vision is clear, Hackworth pointed to his “work ethic on both sides of the ball” and “his awareness” as problem points.

But with time, the Union manager is confident Maidana will turn into the “impact player” they thought they had when they signed him in the offseason.

“I think people have to be patient with a player who comes from a very different culture and is trying to adapt to this league,” Hackworth said. “It’s a big challenge, and there’s a long list of players that were extremely successful coming in from other leagues around the world that struggled [at first].

“He’s a guy we believe in and certainly we’ll see a lot more of – but he has areas of his game that have to improve.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.