CHESTER, Pa. – Is there a battle brewing at left back for the Philadelphia Union?
Despite having started 30 straight games for Philly before being sidelined this past Saturday, second-year defender Raymon Gaddis might now have some competition with summer signing Fábinho (pictured above left), who filled in admirably for an injured Gaddis during the Union’s 2-0 win over D.C. United.
Gaddis will likely be healthy enough to return from a sprained ankle for this Saturday’s game against the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena (8 pm ET, NBCSN) – but Fábinho is playing like he wants a regular spot in the starting XI.
“Fábinho had a good game for us; he gives us a different look on that left side for sure,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “His service is excellent and he gives us options. Ray has still had such a stellar season, and when he comes back, we will have some difficult choices.”
Making his first MLS start Saturday, Fábinho played a full 90 minutes and gave the Union a solid attacking presence on the left side of the field. The Brazilian logged his second assist with Philly – in just 183 total minutes – when he lofted a cross to Conor Casey, who volleyed home his second goal of the game in the 75th minute.
“He’s a great player,” center back Amobi Okugo said. “We all welcomed him with open arms. When he came in, he wasn’t shy or anything. And you can see that with his play. He doesn’t try to play safe like he’s nervous. He came in and bombed down the left.”
Because the Union have been using the same backline for almost the entire season, Hackworth worked with the defenders all week to make sure they could successfully integrate a new player into the mix.
It took a little bit of time but eventually it clicked.
“I thought that in the first half, it wasn’t as good,” Fábinho said through a translator. “But in the second half, I played a lot better and I was able to get more involved and contribute.”
It may turn out that the attack-minded Fábinho will continue to play as a midfield reserve, as he had been doing for his first four games with the Union. But as one of the team’s only left-footed players, it certainly seems likely that the Brazilian will have a big role on the left side of the field over the final 10 games of the season, whether at defense or in the midfield.
“I was really happy to produce like that for this team,” Fábinho said. “And I think that I can continue to get better in the attack – and over time, contribute more and more.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.