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2014 Philadelphia Union Players Review: the Defenders

2014 was a bit of a rollercoaster on defense. Here's how Fabinho, Austin Berry, Carlos Valdes, and Aaron Wheeler's respective seasons went.

John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

2014 Season Summary

Would you believe it if I told you that according to defensive rankings for the Philadelphia Union, Fabinho was the best (non-goalkeeper) defender and Austin Berry was third best? It's true though. Fabinho fell just behind Andre Blake with a 7.15 rating in his nineteen appearances while Berry had a 6.98 in his six appearances (Maurice Edu was sandwiched in the middle with a 7.11 in his 31 appearances). Carlos Valdes, who rejoined the club after a long loan stint in South America and representing Colombia in the 2014 World Cup, was tenth among non-goalkeepers with a 6.82 over eight appearances. Aaron Wheeler was the worst of the listed defenders with a rating of 6.67 - not bad considering he's not a defender he's a forward.

What Did They Do Right?

Fabinho proved to be a valuable spot-starter at left back, leading the team with an average of four interceptions a game over his nineteen matches. Berry notched an assist on May 17 against the New England Revolution,  was second behind Fabinho with 3.8 interceptions per game over his six matches,  led the team with 7.5 clearances per game, and was dribbled past 0.2 times a game - best for defenders. Valdes had a brilliant double clearance against D.C. United that kept the Union in it (go to 3:02 in the video):

Wheeler was actually named to the MLS Team of the Week as a defender in Week 4 against the Montreal Impact.

What Did They Do Wrong?

Fabinho was bad at giving up fouls (1.6 per game, behind only Corben Bone) and getting dribbled past (1.2 times a game - worst on the team). Berry got injured in March against the Revolution and was routinely passed up, first for Aaron Wheeler under John Hackworth and then for Ethan White by Jim Curtin (although White played well enough to warrant this). Valdes looked tired as the season went on - he had played straight through the World Cup and then had a month off while the situation with San Lorenzo was straightened out. And Wheeler was shoehorned into playing center back by Hackworth, which was by all accounts an utter disaster. You really can't blame Wheeler for it though - players play where the manager tells them to.

Most Memorable Moment

In what may have been his last match in a Union shirt, Fabinho notched an assist against Columbus on October 11. Berry played a great match in the season opener against the Portland Timbers, getting a rating of 7.8 - behind only Maurice Edu's 8.3 for Man of the Match. Valdes' most memorable moment was playing with Colombian and Union legend Faryd Mondragon against Japan in the 2014 World Cup. And Wheeler's most memorable moment was the June 28 match against New England when he was subbed on - as a forward.

Future Expectations

Fabinho will most likely be back with the Union, as he was protected by the club during the Expansion Draft. I would expect him to be used as a spot-starter and sub on the left side. Berry will also likely be back, however it's unclear what his role will be going forward. Valdes will most definitely be the starting center back for the Union on opening day barring anything unforeseen. And Wheeler too will most likely remain with the club - as a backup forward.