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2014 Philadelphia Union Player Review: Cristian Maidana

So much promise, and no shortage of frustration sums up a so-so year for the Union's DP no. 10

My left foot.
My left foot.
John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

2014 Summary

We didn't really know much about Chaco before he came to the Union and I am not entirely sure we have really found out a definitive answer to the question we all asked when his signing was announced - i.e. "Who is that guy?"  As an international Designated Player the expectations were understandably high, however if one looks through his playing resumé it seems to hold true to the baseball maxim that "he is what the back of his baseball card says he is."

Chaco has turned up at many clubs just below the elite level in world football, such as the Argentinian, Mexican, and Russian first divisions with only modest success to show from his prime footballing years.  His one shot at the top level of the game with Recreativo in Spain's La Liga was kind of blah, with only one goal and two assists, appearing in just six games. A cursory glance at his footballing history screams ‘journeyman Argentinian number 10' and his stint with the Union has thus far done nothing to disprove that.

What did he do right?

Aside from having hands down the Union's most entertaining Instagram account?  Well, he actually did a ton right but he might just suffer from an unfortunate condition I call Late 2000s Landon Donovan Syndrome or L2sLDS for short. For those who aren't familiar with this terrible condition, L2sLDS happens when the sufferer has footballing vision and skill that his offensive teammates do not share, thus rendering many of his passes, runs, and positional decisions ineffective. Other symptoms are the apparent dribbling in to blind corners, when actually what most folk don't see is what Chaco sees - i.e. if you understand what Chaco sees instead of looking at Chaco you too would see that if Wenger was on the same wavelength he would have anticipated that Maidana's run would pull the central defender away out of position. If Wenger then made a run off the ball in to that space Chaco could play a simple killer pass to him.

Unfortunately if everyone else doesn't get their job right Chaco ends up looking like a greedy, slow, turnover machine. In his very first competitive game against the Timbers Chaco was bossing things in the cramped Portland midfield with Noggy. Union fans were treated to an up until that point incredibly rare sight - nicely weighted passes played behind a defense for a forward to run on to. For the most part that is what Chaco did right, unfortunately many of his teammates weren't seeing the same thing and too many promising situations devolved in to the mire of MLS mediocrity (for photographic illustrations do a Google image search for Danny Cruz and Andrew Wenger).

What did he do wrong?

Again I am going to Instagram... Posting photos of Union tactical instructions probably didn't get him in Hackworth's good books, but we all enjoyed it so was it so wrong after all? On a serious note, the major bump in Chaco's road was the bump on his stomach. He was clearly not 100% fit and ready for the high speed crash-bang-wallop that makes up the majority of games in MLS. As an old-fashioned play maker in the mold of Riquelme (look him up if you don't really know him... Seriously, folks stop reading this and go look him up right now) Chaco often failed to recognize the situation for what it was rather than what he wanted it to be. No doubt feeling the burden of being the team's sole creative attacking flair player his major downfall then became trying to do too much individually. Instead of clever passes in to space or little flicks to beat players over a few yards he tried to be a modern and very different kind of number 10 like Messi, Silva, or Pjanic. Jinking runs and beating three men at pace is rarely going to work for Chaco and the sooner he can accept that fact and find a way to bring his teammates in to his world the better.

Most memorable moment

A turn of his hips against Toronto.  It was nothing more than a simple, subtle change of his body position but it brilliantly took out two defenders and magically opened up a huge tract of land for Sebastien Le Toux to receive a perfectly weighted through ball, thus allowing Conor Casey to score a trademark ‘crashing on to a low hard cross' type of goal.  His hips, unlike Shakira, lied to the central defender who had been pulled up high to cover. Just the hint of "I'm going this way, oh... Psych!  No I'm not!" left the defense in tatters.  It was the kind of play that perfectly summed up Chaco and his ability, and I have watched it maybe a hundred times.

Future expectations

Put simply, score more goals. Unless the FO actually switch their modus operandi and do make good on all the talk of buying a legit goal scorer we have to see somewhere around ten goals from Maidana. The other piece to the puzzle will be hoping to see Chaco make some adjustments to his game now that he has a season of MLS football under his belt. With a better understanding of his role and more importantly everyone else's maybe we can hope to see a battle between Le Toux and Maidana for the club assists lead in 2015.  Oh, and one other thing that is maybe more of a hope than an expectation.  Keep working on that mullet, it really completes the Argentinian play maker look.