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Season review: Fred

Editor’s note: PSP is running season reviews for each Philadelphia Union player — one per weekday for the next few weeks. You can read all the reviews here.

Fred is a central attacking midfielder forced to play on the wing much of the year. That pretty much sums up his season.

Fred started the season on the wing of a 4-2-2-2 largely because there were few other outside options early on. Shea Salinas missed much of training camp and half the season with injuries, and Justin Mapp didn’t come over in a trade till summer. Sebastien Le Toux can play on the wing but established himself at forward before Danny Mwanga cracked the lineup there. Other than Fred, there weren’t many other options.

Come game time, we saw Fred was the most dexterous ballhandler on the team. He was terrific in possession, particularly early in the year, and once he won a ball, he rarely gave it up. He did dribbling tricks in traffic that wowed fans. He was fun to watch at his best.

But the more games passed, the more we saw that he seldom looked up at the goal himself, passing on wide open shots to pass to a teammate. When he did shoot, it was often a long-distance shot that went wildly over the crossbar, almost as if forced up out of obligation. His tendency to come inside on the attack from the left wing forced left back Jordan Harvey to come into the attack more than he was comfortable with in order to maintain the team’s width, and it sometimes left the team vulnerable to counterattacks.

His lack of production soured some on him over the course of the season, but he picked up his play in a big way over the season’s last several weeks, culminating in a terrific final game against the New York Red Bulls, in which he scored, stopped a goal with a goal line save that won MLS Save of the Week, and led the Union to a win over their geographic rivals. Unfortunately, he also drew a yellow card that led to a suspension in the next game, which meant he spent both the season’s first and last games suspended due to yellow card accumulation.

2010 statistics

25 games (24 starts). 1,912 minutes played. 4 goals, 1 assist, 17 shots (8 on goal). 37 fouls caused, 37 fouls suffered. 4 offsides, 5 corner kicks, 6 yellow cards. He was third on the team in goals and led the team in yellow cards.

High point

The Red Bulls home game.

Low point

The moment Peter Nowak first chose to play him on the wing in a 4-2-2-2.


Terrific ball skills. Fred has the dribbling ability of a Brazilian streetballer raised in one of the country’s biggest cities. He holds possession well, and he played best when deployed centrally. He showed a nose for hustling garbage goals this season, and he netted four goals on just 17 shots this season, a terrific rate.


His tendency to move toward the field’s center while on the wing collapses the team’s width, and he doesn’t do it with goal-scoring in mind. He rarely shows the natural instinct to go for the goal, save when he’s right in front of it. When he does shoot from further out, it sometimes seems forced. He didn’t take a shot until the season’s 10th game. He drew cards for too many reckless challenges and sat out two games with suspensions this season, though one of them was due to yellow cards accrued last year.


The emergence of Salinas and Mapp could allow Fred to play centrally next year if he remains with the Union and if a full training camp with a full roster allows Nowak to work in different formations that better suit the personnel. His ball skills could help them flourish, provided his distribution improves once he’s given two legitimate wingers.

That’s all presuming he returns. His tough 2010 campaign may have done irreparable damage to his long-term prospects, but the fact that he played well down the stretch works in his favor, as does the recognition that he played out of position all year for the good of the team. Still, he has the highest salary on the team, and his production didn’t match it. He could be left unprotected during the expansion draft, and it wouldn’t surprise me if offers of a loan to a team in Australia, where he was A-League player of the year three years ago, turn into a potential free transfer. The Union are unlikely to want to once again spend more than 10 percent of their salary cap on an attacking midfielder with just one assist, and Fred may find a more lucrative offer in a league where they fondly remember his one spectacular season with Melbourne Victory.

Personally, I’d like to see him come back if he’s given the chance to play centrally. I like Fred. Admittedly, it’s probably in part because he’s from my wife’s hometown of Belo Horizonte, Brazil and played there for the lower division  Brazilian club for which her grandfather was a director. (Most people from Belo Horizonte root for Atlético Mineiro or Cruzeiro, but they got to me first with América, so I’m probably the only guy in Philly besides maybe Fred ever wearing América gear.) But it’s also because I wonder what he could have done if given the chance to play his natural position more often and see that he quietly took one for the team without publicly complaining.

If he’s not going to play centrally next year, however, the Union and Fred would both be better served by amicably parting ways.

(Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz)


  1. I like Fred for the exact same reasons. Great ball control, amazing eye to see the next pass and through ball, wish he would have been a tad bit more selfish and taken a few more shots on goal. He had quite a few chances with clear path to goal from the 18yd line. Also my girlfriend is from Oro Branco, Minas Gerais, which is right outside of Belo Horizonte. Although Fred played for America, he, like my gfs family and most of BH, support Cruzeiro! We talk to him and Stefani a lot after each games. He’s helping me learn Portuguese. I would love to see him back next year in his natural position. Id be very sad to see him go, but if its better for him and the team then well have to support it.

    • Fred’s a Cruzeiro fan? Oh, no. Forget it. Scratch all the nice stuff I said! It’s America first, Atletico second! Vamos Galo!

      Ok, I’m done acting like an idiot — for now. 😉 We’ll have to look each other up in 2014. The first time I went to Belo Horizonte was in 2003, right after Cruzeiro won the Campeonato for the only time. Was pretty awesome to see.

  2. I was not the biggest fan of him early on in the season, but as the season went on it was clear that when he is in his natural position he is a great asset to the team. But, with the tactical set up that Nowak seems to go for I can’t see him staying. Nowak seems to have settled into a set up that has no CAM, but does have a deep lying distributor. While Fred might be suited to the distributor I feel like Coudet or Nak is more suited to the role because both have great long balls. Unless the Union’s tactics change where we have a CAM similar to a role like Kaka I can’t see Fred playing well or consistently for the U boys. I think we have brought up the lopsided formation idea on here a couple of times, which I would really like to see more of and it puts Fred in his natural position. I may very well be insane because what I am about to say has almost no place in the modern game, but I would not mind the Union trying out some version of a 3-5-2. I know it’s nuts, but the thought of a Salinas, Jacobson, Migz, Torres(or mapp), Fred, Le Toux, Mwanga midfield/attack would make for some awesome attacking play. I tell myself that 3 committed defenders who do not push up will work, but then I come back to reality.

    • A lot of people thought Nowak would play a straight 3-5-2 this year because he has in the past. It isn’t that crazy a proposition when you consider how soccer tactics are evolving. Check out this link from last Wednesday’s news roundup for a good read: http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2010/oct/26/the-question-barcelona-reinventing-w-w.
      Even the Union get into the act. When in possession, Migs often drops deep while the center backs go wide and the fullbacks push up. It creates a de facto three-man back line. It’s also part of what made Jordan Harvey’s life difficult, by the way. Williams is clearly more wingback than fullback and could easily slot in as a winger on some teams.

      • Wow, that was a good article. Never really looked at those teams as working the 3-5-2. You said Nowak has played a straight 3-5-2 in the past, but was it more of a Barcelona version or a committed 3-5-2? Thanks for the article by the way.

  3. Ed Farnsworth says:

    Save for the end of the season, my abiding memory of Fred will be him moving laterally in front of goal to no end, spurning shooting opportunities and losing the ball. He’s a midfielder with one assist and 17 shots on the season. Eight of those shots were on goal, which sounds like a high conversion rate given his four goals for the season. But my memory of his late season effectiveness is one of him converting deflections, not creating opportunities. I’m grateful for those goals but I don’t understand how people see him as creative. I see him as flashy for nowt, holding the ball too long and, playing out of position or not, generally ineffective. He’s not worth the money and I’ll be happy to see him gone so younger players can develop in his place.

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