Players to watch

Player to watch: Fabian Herbers

Photo: Earl Gardner

Editor’s note: To read each post in the Player to Watch series, click here.

Fabian Herbers intrigues.

The 23-year-old German is looking to build off a successful rookie campaign and start the 2017 season off on the right foot. One of three rookies Philadelphia Union drafted in the 1st round of the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, Herbers is in a prime position to earn starting minutes this season.

Why to watch

Herbers is a versatile attacking player and can play a number of different positions on the field. Last year, he was primarily stationed on the right wing, splitting minutes with Ilsinho. So far this preseason, Union head coach Jim Curtin has given him a run at securing the No. 10 position, but Alejandro Bedoya is also a factor there and could start either there or at the No. 8. Herbers’s performances throughout the preseason have been hit or miss. Curtin seems to trust Herbers and likes his work rate all over the field. It’ll be interesting to see where he feels comfortable playing heading into the season, and where he actually ends up.

Best case scenario

Herbers eventually begins to find his stride in the No. 1o role and takes over as the creative midfielder the Union are looking to replace with Tranquilo Barnetta’s departure. With a rough travel schedule, Herbers could also fill in for Ilsinho on the right side.  He continues to be a force in the attacking third and doubles his goal tally from last year (3), and he racks up even more assists after leading the league in that category as a rookie. Herbers stays healthy throughout the year and starts 25 or so games.

Worst case scenario

The worst case scenario for Herbers is that nagging injuries bother him all year long and he can never nail down a spot in the Union’s 18.  Or, he becomes a shell of himself and regresses into the dreaded “sophomore slump.” Herbers is never able to settle in at the No. 10 role and loses his spot to Alejandro Bedoya, or Roland Alberg, or someone else slots in at the No. 1o role. By the time he’s lost out in central midfield, Ilsinho has locked up the wing, and Herbers is relegated to substitution duty. When he does get a chance as a substitute, he is unable to create anything and doesn’t do a whole lot of anything for the Union going forward.


Herbers isn’t a key player for the Union … yet. He has the tools to be a very successful attacker in MLS, and to do so he needs to continue where he left off from last year. For that to happen, Herbers is going to need to look to be the creator of the offense if he plays the No. 10, if he plays out wide he’s going to need find ways to put crosses into the box for Jay Simpson or C.J. Sapong to latch on to. Herbers was a talented rookie last year who will definitely be looking to have a breakout season.


  1. HopkinsMD says:

    Some reports say he has come into the year with noticeably improved fitness. I’d love to see him able to go the full 90, though that might be difficult if there is a rotation at RW with Ilson Jr.
    Speaking of Ilson Jr… Others have mentioned their interest in seeing him at CAM. If Herbers can go 90 minutes more often than not, I’d be okay with that experiment.

  2. I’ve always loved Herbers. He produced ridiculous numbers in college and has produced excellent numbers in limited MLS minutes. If I was coaches I’d probably start him over Ilsinho. At least he gets goals even if he’s not as fancy

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