I've always liked Fabinho. For a long time, that was a really unpopular opinion. His overly aggressive style of defense has lead to many, many mistakes. Some of those mistakes have even lead directly to goals for the opposition. His critics had plenty to complain about, and plenty of examples of his defensive lapses to cite when arguing for his benching. The weird thing about Fabinho was that, right up until the point where he made one of his signature devastating mistakes, he was usually having a great game. It always seemed to me that if Fabinho could just clean up his game, even a little bit, he could turn into a great player. Sure, his daring lunges at the opponent are risky, but those same risks have potentially big payoffs.
In 2015, it seems like Fabinho took that next step I always hoped he would make. He started picking where and when he took his risks. His gambling became a little less reckless, and we saw his game greatly improve as a result. I won't say that I saw this improvement coming, but I will say that I always thought that it was possible.
What did he do right?
As I said above, Fabinho took a huge step in the right direction this season, simply by cleaning up his game the tiniest bit. It was a small change, but the difference it made in his game was very, very noticeable. Noticeable enough, that WhoScored.com declared him the best left back in MLS this season.
Now... let me just say that while I am a fan of Fabinho, I don't think that he's the best left back in MLS. Moreover, in a league almost entirely bereft of quality left backs, I'm not sure that's a distinction worthy of much celebration anyway. That being said, it's clearly worth something that Fabinho's performance this season got that kind of recognition from a site that prides itself in objective statistical analysis. With 4.6 interceptions per game, it's clear that his aggressiveness, which has so often been criticized in the past, finally started to pay dividends.
What did he do wrong?
At the risk of spending this entire review talking about Fabinho's over-aggressive style of play... well... It's not called over-aggressive for nothing. Fabinho likes to charge in on tackles, and that causes mistakes. As much as he cleaned up his game, he's still a far cry from being perfect. Simply put, it's a risky way to play, and when you play risky, sometimes you are going to get burnt.
It's also worth noting that, while it isn't entirely Fabinho's fault, the Union's rotating back line made it very difficult for any defender to play cohesively with his teammates. The entire defense suffered all season as a result, conceding 55 goals, the most in the team's history. I don't think this is any one person's fault, but the entire defense clearly didn't perform well all season, and Fabinho was a part of that. Next season, if he looks to continue to improve, he should look to help the defense play as a unit.
Most Memorable Moment
For me, this is an easy one. I was sitting in the River End when the Union mounted a dramatic comeback with 10 men against D.C. United in the U.S. Open Cup. I thought I tore my larynx screaming when Fabinho scored the game-winning goal. It was a beautiful, near post shot from a very difficult angle. It was possibly the most glorious moment in the cornucopia of glorious moments that made up this season's Open Cup run.
Personally, I think it's safe to say that Fabinho's run of good play is not a fluke, as he was pretty consistent this entire season. A lot of fans have been clamoring for a better left back... well seemingly for the team's entire existence, but if Fabinho can keep this up I don't think that ranks among the team's priorities this offseason. We definitely need depth at that position, but I don't think we need to go out and spend big bucks on a starter. I'd rather see us spend those funds on a defensive midfielder and a winger. Maybe even a prolific goal scorer for our center forward. Fabinho has done enough to solidify a starting spot for 2016 in my book.
Do you agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments!