PSP talks to Union draft pick Fabian Herbers

Photo: Courtesy of Philadelphia Union

Fabian Herbers was nearly unstoppable as a junior at Creighton in 2015. The 6’o” striker collected 15 goals and 17 assists in 23 regular season games and was held without a goal or assist only three times all season (once by a Georgetown defense led by Joshua Yaro and Keegan Rosenberry). Herbers has speed and calmness in front of goal, but his willingness to bring teammates into play stands out in his highlights. PSP talked to Herbers about the adjustments he will make to fit into the Union’s single striker system and how he will deal with the speed and experience of MLS defenses.

Philly Soccer Page: What type of player were you in college and what parts of your game do you expect to translate quickly at the MLS level?

Fabian Herbers: I was a forward in college. I was always one of two forwards in college. I like to come into the midfield at times and get the ball from there and turn and run at defenders. But I also like to make runs in behind and get balls behind defenders. I was pretty fast, had a good shot, always an eye for my teammates. So I ended up having a lot of goals and assists my last season, which was pretty good. Coming to MLS now, the level is higher of course, but I think if I can make my runs and hold the ball up top and play with my teammates, I think I’ll have good chances there.

PSP: Watching your highlights, it’s clear you have speed and, given time, it was easy for you to pass around another team. What changed going into your last season that made it so you could, honestly, dominate at times?

FH: First of all, I came early to Creighton. I came three weeks early because I really wanted to be fit. I worked on a lot of fitness so I was ready for the season. Overall, we had a very good team at Creighton, a very talented team with a lot of seniors. We really hoped and thought that we could make it to the Final Four. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite make it, we made it to the Elite Eight. But we had a really strong team and we really felt like it was something special and we could go all the way with that team. And that was my mindset and the mindset of my team. And we really wanted to have a strong season. And it ended up for me, being a forward, pretty well.

PSP: Looking forward, do you feel more comfortable checking into midfield in more of a hold-up role, or do you generally feel more comfortable running in behind defenses?

FH: In practice right now with the Union, I’m playing the hold-up guy up top. The single striker. I feel really comfortable doing that. I still make my runs in behind. I get accurate balls where I want them, which is an advantage for me. So I would see myself more as a high guy than dropping too much into midfield. There are other guys around that are probably more technical and doing a better job there, so I like being the guy up top and going as high as I can.

PSP: When you’re playing as a single guy up there in front of a five man midfield, has it felt any different than playing with a second striker as you did in college? Is it more complex for you trying to read midfield runs?

FH: It’s pretty different. At Creighton I had a pretty free role as one of the two strikers because one of the two would always adjust. When I dropped into the midfield, the other guy would stay high or vice versa. But right now I just stay high and let the midfield do the hard work. It’s a bit different since you can’t drop into the midfield much because there are already guys there and they need a guy to stay high, so it’s a little adjustment. But I feel comfortable doing that. So not too big of a difference, I guess.

PSP: One of the things that stands out watching your college highlights is that there seemed to be games or moments when you could straight up run by defenders. Playing against MLS competition, and even in the combine, are you facing guys now that when you try to use your speed on them, you find out it doesn’t work and you have to adjust? And how do you adjust when that happens?

FH: I’ve experienced it in practice with the Union already. The defenders are much more experienced and very fast. So you can’t really run behind them or just run past them. So if I see that’s happening, I just keep the ball and don’t turn it over. Find some guys that are supporting you, connect a pass, and play goes on from there. That’s an important part for me, is just to hold it and keep playing if you can’t get past the defender yet.

PSP: How much did you know about the Union and how they play before you got there? It’s a club that brought in a new technical director and would like to play a bit different than last year. How has the adjustment been for you so far?

FH: Before the combine, I didn’t know a whole lot about the Union. But I played in the stadium once in the Big East tournament in November 2014. I really like the stadium, it’s a really cool place with a bridge in behind, and the water. I really like that.

At the combine and before the combine, I had talks with the coaches and they told me what their plan was, what their system was. That’s basically what I knew about the Union.

PSP: And how has preseason been so far? Anything you didn’t expect from a MLS preseason?

FH: Not anything that I didn’t expect. It’s busy, it’s good. We’ve practiced for one and a half weeks now. It’s a bit harder, I would say. But during the season, I will adjust. I really like it. We play in Penn State now, in the bubble on turf, which is not ideal, but it was still good. Better than the cold, I guess. The team has been working really hard, and so have I.

PSP: Do you have any special goal celebrations ready for your first goal as a Union player?

FH: Goal celebration? No, even at Creighton I like to celebrate with the team. Of course, the goalscorer always gets to celebrate but it’s always a team effort; the goal doesn’t come just from the striker. So I just like to celebrate with my teammates and be happy that we’ve scored as a team, not as an individual.

PSP: What about free kicks? You took them at Creighton. Is that something you’d like to do at the MLS level?

FH: Yeah, it’s something that I do well, and I like doing. At Creighton I had several nice goals out of free kicks. On this level, however, I think there are many older players that are very good at taking free kicks. Therefore the chances are probably pretty small.

PSP: And you took direct and indirect free kicks at Creighton?

FH: Yeah, I took both. And I also took corner kicks as well.

PSP: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk.


  1. FH: In practice right now with the Union, I’m playing the hold-up guy up top. The single striker. I feel really comfortable doing that. I still make my runs in behind. I get accurate balls where I want them, which is an advantage for me. So I would see myself more as a high guy than dropping too much into midfield. There are other guys around that are probably more technical and doing a better job there, so I like being the guy up top and going as high as I can.
    There’s CJ’s backup.
    Yes, I know they are still in the market for a DP Striker, but those comments sound an awful lot like they are preparing him to be CJ’s sub and a spot starter.

    • 100% agree.

    • I am still not convinced we want that big target man striker in the middle anymore. If we are planning on building the attack more it’s not as necessary. Herbers isn’t small either although he’s also not big. I would also say that Sapong is athletic enough that he can play pretty much any style. I am very interested in how they plan on using the striker this year.
      Would still like to bring in another player there, even if it’s more as a solid backup to Sapong. I just don’t like counting on rookies for anything and we would only be 1 injury away from no depth, unless we are counting Le Toux or Pontius or something.

      • Neither of them are the Old School version of a hold-up forward. Both are fast and athletic, but big and strong enough to bang with the bigger center-backs.
        It seems to be part of Earnie’s versatility vision. A guy might skew towards one position, but is comfortable in a few (Barnetta and Alberg are examples, too).

      • Yeah makes sense, and both of them can swing out to the wing in a pinch too. I guess it’s about general soccer skills. Total soccer I suppose.

      • There ya go, making it Dutch. Well played.

  2. when i hear or read interviews with all three of the unions first round picks i am really struck by how intelligent they seem. i’m not saying that the average player is particularly unintelligent but all three of these guys stand out as being more thoughtful than average

    • True, I once hear Jimmie Johnson say that one of the lessons that he learned early on in coaching was to only draft or sign smart players. His message was if a player is smart, I can reason with him and get him to play the role and do the things that I need him to. With dumb players, that job is just too hard.

  3. What if…just what if this dude is a scorer.
    He sounds very self assured. I would love if he played with the same moxie – dare say arrogance that seems to linger just behind his tongue. From the videos I’ve watched it seems this new Dutch young man, Roland, has a little bit of swagger too. I’m all for swagger. As Kephern says, “I’m here to beat you. I’m here to embarrass you. I’m here to win…and that’s what’s up.”
    Could you imagine finding a bona fide gol scorer … may be one of the last from the collegiate ranks…
    Here is me secretly hoping he is better than Jordan Morris… yea yea…its a stretch I know.

    • it might not be much of a stretch in my opinion. he put up better numbers than morris last season, didn’t he?

    • I’m with you on this. Everything I’ve read so far since he was drafted points at this young gentleman having a dash of confidence, to put it mildly. I think I’ve got higher hopes for him than the other two draft picks.

    • I’m going ‘ALL IN’ on this kid! I say he will impress the shit out of us… Watching him strike direct kicks says it all. If he adjusts to the league quickly, we are in for a real surprise treat here… watch your starting job CJ…WOOHOO>>> UNION_UNION_UNION_UNION_UNION!!!

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