CHESTER, Pa. — Coming off a season that saw the Philadelphia Union accrue their highest point total in team history and reach the final of the U.S. Open Cup, the biggest question entering the offseason was how they would cover for the loss of MLS assist leader Borek Dockal.
Now, after signing Mexican international Marco Fabian – and making him the highest-paid player in team history – the question may not be whether they can return to the playoffs, but how far they can go once they get there.
“You’re adding a top international to a team that won 19 games last year,” said head coach Jim Curtin after Fabian’s signing was finalized on Friday. “I think it’s the most ambitious signing we’ve had, I can say that.”
Unlike Dockal, who was brought in at the tail end of preseason on a one-year loan with no option to buy, the Union have a one-year contract with Fabian and hold two team option years that could extend his stay through 2021.
That’s good news for a team with a number of promising young academy-grown players that’s transitioning to a new style of play under sporting director Ernst Tanner. But Fabian thinks the Union are built to win now, and is ready to take on the responsibility of leading a team that’s never won a playoff game into uncharted territory.
“I am one person that don’t like to lose,” Fabian said. “I am a winner. I come to take the next championship.”
He joins a midfield that boasts a wealth of experience with captain Alejandro Bedoya, Bosnian pass master Haris Medunjanin and Brazilian maestro Ilsinho. The Homegrown trio of Derrick Jones, Anthony Fontana and Brenden Aaronson provide Curtin with options both in his starting lineup and substitutions.
Prior to Fabian's signing, the marquee offseason acquisition was 24-year-old Brazilian striker Sergio Santos, who is expected to anchor a deep and diverse group of strikers. Fafa Picault and Cory Burke, who tied for the team lead with 10 goals last season, return along with two players — David Accam and CJ Sapong — determined to bounce back from down seasons in 2018.
“From all that I see, now we have for sure a better squad in comparison to the last season and a better roster,” Tanner said.
Fabian is familiar with Bedoya, having played against him on the international level, but in another contrast from the Dockal move a year ago, he will have three weeks to get acquainted with his new teammates before kicking off the season at home against Toronto FC on March 2.
“We have a good team, now the next two weeks I need to work a lot and get ready to start the season,” said Fabian.
Curtin said he’ll demand a lot of his new star.
"He’s embraced that leadership role, and for lack of a better term, to be that big-time player when on a night when maybe we’re not our best, he’s the one that scores the goal that makes a difference in a 0-0 game,” Curtin said.