CHESTER, Pa. — Marco Fabian’s first season in MLS has fallen well short of the lofty expectations that followed when the Philadelphia Union made him the highest-paid player in franchise history in February this year.
But that was all forgotten three minutes after he subbed on in the 103rd minute of Sunday’s dramatic match with the New York Red Bulls. The Mexican star scored the goal that sealed the club’s first-ever playoff victory.
“I was doing my job,” Fabian said of his cameo in the Union’s wild 4-3 comeback win in Round One of the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs. “When they need me, I try always to do my best. I’m a professional, I’m a winner and I try to help this team if it’s for a few minutes or it’s all the time.”
Fabian came off the bench for the third straight game and the ninth time this season, with head coach Jim Curtin opting to go with teenage midfielder Brenden Aaronson in a 4-4-2 instead of the veteran.
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His stoppage-time goal in the first extra frame was as improbable as the win itself, considering the Union twice overcame two-goal deficits earlier in the match.
On the play, Fabian tracked down a cross from fellow substitute Fafa Picault near the end line, shuffled a few steps to his right and then struck a ball into the box that took a slight, but crucial, deflection off Marc Rzatkowski. It ultimately found the top right-hand corner of the net.
Picault insisted after the game that it was a shot, and Fabian supported that after training on Tuesday.
“Maybe a lot of people don’t believe I tried to shoot, but I got lucky for sure,” Fabian said. “This is not the first time I scored like this.”
Regardless of the intent, moments like that encompass why the Union splashed the cash to bring him in from Eintracht Frankfurt. Fabian, 30, became a high-priced player on a team not known for paying top dollar.
Though the Designated Player was hamstrung earlier this season by a suspension and an ankle injury, Fabian still contributed seven goals and one assist.
“He just wants the club to win, so if people want to be critical on him then the fingers should point to me, because he’s a player and he just wants to be on the field," Curtin said. "At this time, I chose to use Brenden over him – and that’s not personal. But at the same time, he’s a guy who obviously now has scored a very big goal for us and a guy that we’re going to need again against Atlanta and hopefully against Toronto [FC] or NYCFC."
Fabian has started just once in the five games since he was left off the gameday roster against LAFC after missing a team meeting, prompting speculation that he wouldn't return to the Union next season. He was signed to a one-year contract, but the team holds two one-year club options.
For his part, Fabian has declined to comment about his future with the club beyond Thursday, when they’ll take on defending MLS Cup champions Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the Eastern Conference semifinal (8 pm ET | ESPN 2, ESPN Deportes in US; TVAS, TSN4 in Canada).
“We know this stadium is fantastic and it’s full and the support is good,” Fabian said of Atlanta. “It’s also good when you have a lot of people against you; it’s motivation. I try to silence the stadium. For me, it’s the best thing to do.”
Whether he returns next season or not, Fabian isn’t satisfied with being remembered simply as the guy who won the Union their first playoff game.
“I want to go to the final,” he said.