Player of the Week

Player of the week: Brian Carroll

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Every offseason, Philadelphia Union replenishes its central midfield depth with new talent. Yet every year the club turns to Brian Carroll and asks him to step into the breach once more. Carroll is in the thick of his 14th MLS season. He went to the playoffs every single year of his career until 2012. Now, aged 34, he has been stepping up in Maurice Edu’s absence to help the Union on a path back to the postseason.

Writing about Carroll in this week’s player ratings, I noted how it seems like his rating is higher when I don’t talk about him: “I didn’t mention Carroll at all in the analysis. Because he was that good. A block and four interceptions, no incomplete passes inside his own half. Carroll will get dribbled by at least once or twice a game (this time it was Poku), but he will continue to provide a reliable shield in front of the back four. In celebration of BC’s Ironman status, here’s a video of him bodying one of his generation’s best strikers off the ball. Cheers, homey.”

BC does the little stuff. Always. Stuff so little that we have to call it ‘little stuff’ because we can hardly find it when we look for it, but we know it’s there. Watch this clip from Saturday’s match:

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There is the little stuff. Drifting over with the play, keeping the spacing right between the lines, checking behind to make sure he’s shadowing the passing lane to David Villa, stepping up immediately once the ball is played back. It’s all automatic, almost like he’s going through a drill in his head while everyone else deals with the emotions and frustrations of a live match.

Carroll has been written off; he’s been written out of the Union’s plans many times. Yours truly made the case against him just over three years ago. Mea culpa, mea culpa.

No matter how many times he is dismissed as a paragon of yesterday’s soccer, Carroll continues to put in consistent performances whenever he is out on the field. If teams get momentum and attack the Union with pace, everyone comes out to say Carroll is done and the only grass he should see is in the pasture. A week later, Philly will tighten up a bit and Carroll will look comfortable once more, reading plays, pressuring animated players more than a dozen years his junior and forcing them into immature decisions. He never basks in those small moments that prove his value. He moves on.

When asked about his accomplishment this week, Carroll said it’s something he’ll appreciate in the future. But for now: “It’s good to just have that out of the way so I don’t have to maybe talk about that so much since that’s not really what I tend to do.”

What he does tend to do is lead with the type of consistent play that has his own coach holding him up as a model for children to follow. And he will likely continue to do it until he decides he’s done. Because every time the rest of the world says it’s time for him to go, Carroll chugs past the exit lane without a second glance.

Even without his 350 MLS appearances, he is a deserving Philly Soccer Page Player of the Week.


  1. Ryan Stockton says:

    Good pick. Not the sexy pick, but a good one. And that’s kind of the point. Glad to still have Carroll on the books here.

  2. I love the little backwards head turn to make sure he’s blocking the passing lane to Villa — good call on that.

    I’ve never been a Carroll-hater, but in fairness to the Carroll-haters, there was a time a few years ago when his play took a downturn, and he was almost as much of a hindrance as he was a help. But last year he took it up a notch, and this year he’s continued in the same vein. I wonder if they’ll find a coaching spot for him when he finally hangs up the cleats.

    • Two years ago he had a very poor year. Either by tactical design or by his own decision he tended to chase even as far as midfield and leave the space right in front of the back four wide open. Carroll was always considered to be a protector of the backline so this was very out of character. Coupled with his lack of offensive game, I was calling for him to be done too at that point.
      Last year he rebounded and played very well. Again, either by tactical design or by his own decisions, he seemed to play more zonally and sit more right in front of the centerbacks. So in essence, he did the vital and often unrecognized job of protecting one of the most dangerous areas of the field while freeing up more offensive players to do their thing. Which is what most were expecting him to do. This year, he is continuing this solid play.

  3. You don’t appear 350 times in this league without star qualities. Never forget him.

  4. Well deserved. He’s the consummate pro, and it’s good to see appreciation for Carroll on the upswing.

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