The Philadelphia Union just made the biggest signing in club history.
I, for one, am juiced about the Marco Fabian era. Fabian is a legit Mexican star, a No. 10 capable of magical moments (when healthy, more on that in a second) in Liga MX, Germany and internationally with El Tri.
Six words to describe this deal for the Union: relatively low risk, potentially high reward.
Yes, there are qualifiers given the Union’s history of restraint, let’s call it, in the transfer market and the fact that Fabian, for all his previous brilliance and unquestioned pedigree, hasn’t played much soccer in the past two years thanks to back surgery followed by reserve roles with Mexico and Eintracht Frankfurt.
Here, the details. You can’t evaluate the signing without them.
Think about it this way: Philly took a flier on an experienced, proven player who costs nothing up front but could be Best XI material. They spent bigger than they ever have before in term of their own salary structure, but relatively modestly in terms of other playoff contenders. In theory, at least, this is good business.
Is Fabian worth $2 million a year? Absolutely, given his ceiling, potential marketing draw and the fact that Philadelphia aren’t locked in long-term. Furthermore, what was the alternative for the Union? Let Borek Dockal walk and go without a proven No. 10? That was truly the riskiest proposition for a team that’d like to continue their upward trajectory. If it wasn’t Fabian, it’d be someone else, and likely someone with a lesser resume.
For reference, here’s a list of other players who made in the neighborhood of $2 million in 2018: Diego Valeri, Nico Lodeiro, Miguel Almiron, Raul Ruidiaz, Maxi Moralez and Darwin Quintero. That’s darn good company. It also means much will be expected of Fabian.
Perhaps that responsibility is what Fabian needs at this point in his career. After failing to break back in with Eintracht this season, he gets a fresh start while the Union get a more noteworthy No. 10 to replace Dockal as well as time for Homegrown midfielder Brenden Aaronson to develop. The 29-year-old arrives in Philly with something to prove, and a career to revive.
Here’s noted Fabian enthusiast David Gass’ scouting report, solicited via text the moment the deal became official. Clearly, my ExtraTime Radio co-host is juiced as well.
“I always thought of him as a No. 10 who can be a threat running downhill behind a striker. Fabian is at his best when he gets the ball and can run at defenders with options on both sides. Drop off him and he’s got a world-class ability to strike from distance. He has the ability to break open a defense that didn’t previously exist on the Union's roster, but there’s risk, too. If things don't go well, is he someone you want in the locker room of a young team? Maybe, maybe not. At his peak, though, Fabian is a match winner in MLS.”
Whether you’re a Union supporter or not, that’s the kind of player we want to watch in this league every week. I hope Fabian delivers.
How will Fabian fit into Union system?
He’ll be the No. 10 in what appears to be, based on early preseason action, a 4-4-2 featuring a diamond midfield.
Jim Curtin will play Fabian at the point and let him do his thing. He’ll deliver the final ball on the counterattack, dictate the game in the final third, make goal-dangerous runs into the box, bang in the occasional golazo and terrorize goalkeepers via free kicks. On those final two points, head over to YouTube to check out these 2017 goals for Mexico against Germany and Iceland.
But can he press? This is a team poised to shift their identity from ball dominant to something closer to the Red Bulls. Clearly Fabian can handle the attacking side of the game, but the Union will ask for more. Fortunately, he ought to be somewhat fit despite the lack of game action. Curtin’s got a month to get him up to speed.