CHESTER, Pa. – As the Philadelphia Union continue to search for goals, manager John Hackworth continues to search for the right mix of wingers to play in his 4-3-3 formation.
A week after giving surprise starts to Fabinho and Danny Cruz on the wings, Hackworth indicated that more changes could be in store for Saturday’s contest against the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field (10 pm ET, MLS Live).
“We have options right now,” Hackworth said. “I think that it depends on our opponent and it depends on the tactics that we want to employ in a game. I would suspect that you’re going to see more changes. So if everyone out there wants to see the same 11 week in week out, I don’t think you’re going to see that.”
Fabinho starting as an attacker in last Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the Montreal Impact was probably the biggest surprise, considering he had been exclusively deployed as a left back this season.
But Fabinho was used in the midfield last season after coming to Philly from the Australian A-League in July. And given the logjam at fullback with Ray Gaddis gobbling up minutes at left back and Sheanon Williams returning to form after an early-season injury at right back, Hackworth decided to shake things up and put Fabinho on the left wing.
“I don’t think of Fabinho as a defender purely,” Hackworth said. “I don’t think of him as a guy who’s out of position. I can understand why people would look at it that way, but he played last year for this club a lot as an attacking player and did quite well. His entire career before he moved to Australia was spent as an attacking left-sided player. I see him every single day. We know what he’s capable on the attacking side of the ball.”
Even though the Union failed to break out of their scoring funk, Hackworth praised Fabinho’s performance last week – as he did with Cruz.
Saturday’s game marked the first start of the year for Cruz, who had been dealing with a right heel contusion. And the 24-year-old midfielder put in 66 minutes of solid work on the right wing, with Hackworth calling him a “bright spot.”
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“Danny is a player in this league that absolutely brings the right energy level every single game,” the Union manager said. “He doesn’t get enough credit for his soccer. … And he brings that ability to stretch a defense with his pace.”
Sebastien Le Toux and Cristian Maidana have earned the most minutes on the wings and are probably the likeliest bets to start in Seattle. But with Fabinho and Cruz now in the mix, along with second-year midfielder Leo Fernandes, the attacking unit may look different every game.
“I think with lineup changes, especially with the group of players we have right now, you’re going to see that happen more regularly because we have some depth,” Hackworth said. “We look at our opponent and we look at maybe some tactical things we can do against them.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.