Season Reviews

Season Review: Fabinho

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Addressing weaknesses is a key factor in whether a team can go through one of those rags-to-riches stories that brings a fan base to life. In Major League Soccer, circumstances complicate this (a tight salary cap coupled with modest revenues) and also make it easier (the American league exhibits more parity than most leagues in the world).

Entering 2013, Philadelphia Union were weak on the left. Plenty of pundits thought they would at least address a glaring hole at left back. Instead, the Union passes up drafting or signing a left-footed player in the preseason. Not until the end of June did the team bring in Fabio Alves, a.k.a. Fabinho.

After two weeks, he was making substitute appearances. He notched an assist in his first game against Chivas USA, putting the game out of reach against the 10-man Goats. A month later, he earned his first start and recorded an assist there too. It was quite the novel experience for Union fans to see a player swing in left-footed crosses.

But when Fabinho was first announced as a signing, Union fans had concerns about whether a player who reportedly struggled in the A-League was of sufficient quality for an MLS side. Fabinho was certainly an upgrade over what they had on the left, but he struggled to provide much influence within matches aside from an occasional cross or two.

High Point Fabinho 2013 stats

It’s tough to really put a finger on a high point for Fabinho in a half-season that was rather hit or miss for the Brazilian. The goal against Montreal was a beauty but it came in a 2-1 loss that was a must-win. Perhaps that first match was the high point, where there was still the novelty of a guy who could occasionally provide Le Toux-like service from the other side (back when Le Toux-like service was quite effective for the Union) to enhance the Union attack.

Instead, injuries and tactical decisions saw Le Toux see less time down the right, with Danny Cruz becoming more favored. With teams keying on Fabinho as the only guy pouring in crosses from wide, the service to the forwards degraded on both sides of the field. This led to many of the issues that John Hackworth’s squad experienced down the stretch as they tumbled down the Eastern Conference table.

Low Point

One would have to say his red card against Toronto FC was a bit out of character. He doesn’t seem like a malicious guy, but it was a clear red card that Philadelphia could ill afford at the time. They were level with the Reds heading towards stoppage time, needing all three points. They were saved by fellow Brazilian Kleberson’s memorable free kick that provided hope heading into the final weeks.

Strengths

Perhaps Fabinho’s biggest strength was his ability to quickly fit into the Union locker room. Within six weeks of his arrival, Hackworth had him in the starting lineup. Yes, a lot of that had to do with the Union’s right-heavy squad. But as we’ve seen for awhile, just because you can do a job doesn’t mean that you will make the pitch. A competent defender from the left midfield position, Fabinho fit the Union mold.

Weaknesses

In a pinch, Fabinho worked at left back, ostensibly his true position. But Hackworth knew that Fabinho’s defensive liabilities at the back meant he would be better off with the off-foot Ray Gaddis in the defense. Fabinho also tired as matches progressed; his production seemed more meaningful off the bench than as a starter. He doesn’t seem to fit well into a possession style game either, with his passing numbers resembling that of a forward more than a midfielder.

Outlook

In a league where the ultimate left-sided player is a journeyman cross between Luke Perry and a Tolkien character, it’s surprising that more teams aren’t more intent at developing the next domestic star on that side. It will be interesting to see if the Union take a harder look at Don Anding to play an attacking role down the left. Or, they could look abroad for an upgrade, which could put Fabinho into a reserve role.

But Hackworth seems to like Fabinho, and with a full preseason of training, he might round into better form going into the new season. There is no doubt about this though for the Union must expect more out of their left side than what they got in 2013. From this vantage point, the Brazilian hasn’t fit that bill yet.

6 Comments

  1. Did Earl just identify Brad Davis as the love child of Luke Perry and an elf? Yes, he did. I now hope Perry somehow finds a role in one of The Hobbit movies.

  2. Never a first choice player for me, but probably a good guy to have around. It seems to me that whatever crossing ability he has was inflated due being literally the only guy on the team who could send in a cross from the left side of any quality whatsoever. It’s always good to have options though, and maybe a full preseason will see his overall game and fitness level improve.

  3. OneManWolfpack says:

    Fabinho should be a spot starter and a fill in guy. Not an every day starter. If an upgrade could be made, I would do it.

  4. An amateur; just like the whole team!

  5. I do consider all the ideas you have presented for your post. They are really convincing and will definitely work. Still, the posts are too quick for starters. May just you please extend them a little from next time? Thank you for the post.

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