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2016 Player Review: Tranquillo Barnetta

Despite being here for only a season and a half, Barnetta will always be one of my favorite players to play for the blue and gold.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

2016 Summary:

Logging in 2311 over the course of 29 appearances for the Philadelphia Union in the center of the pitch are just the numbers. Five goals and four assists for the blue and gold sound like a player who was ineffective given the amount he played. What Tranquillo did for the Philadelphia Union doesn't register on the stat sheet. It's hard to underestimate his influence over the team as they made the playoffs for the just the second time in seven seasons.

Barnetta made his mark on setting the team straight. The captain organized the midfield and despite having to play chunks of the season out of position, he was always giving his heart for this team. From the moment he put the shirt on, Barnetta was a Union player through and through. He'd bleed for this team, he'd die for this team, and he'd give everything he could to make sure that they would succeed.

What did he do right?

Tranquillo Barnetta, despite playing out wide for much of his career, filled in nicely at the central attacking midfielder position. Barnetta netted some fantastic goals and set pieces this season and those will always be memorable. The ability to calm the game down while also being creative enough to spring the attack led to outstanding performances all season long by Chris Pontius. Barnetta's partnership with now-gone Vincent Nogueira and still-here Ilsinho were some of the most exciting pieces of soccer I've seen from the Union.

The way he played will also always sit well with me. The heart and hustle he put into the game at the #10 role fit perfectly into Jim Curtin's system and he was the cog in the wheel that lead to the successful start of the 2016 season. He defensive pressure early this year allowed a young back line to bare less of the weight of opposing offenses. He was vital in situations that we do not mark on paper.

What did he do wrong?

As a central attacking midfielder, it is hard to not criticize his occasional inability to unlock defenses with one breathtaking pass. When compared to the most recent #10, Cristian Maidana, it is also easy to suggest Barnetta wasn't nearly as effective. I think that is fair criticism. In a high pressure, defense first system it is important that every position plays defense. Barnetta is miles ahead of his predecessor in that regard. When it comes to his ability to consistently influence the game offensively, he's just not that player night in and night out.

I don't have many critiques of Barnetta's game, but with his responsibility to control the flow of the game, without Nogueira's help, led him to become unnecessarily cavalier. Not quite on Ilsinho's level of cavalier, but it could lead him into space that wasn't there and defenders that became too numerous.

Most Memorable Moment:

It is easy to point to one moment in his short time here. So I will. His 90th minute free-kick stunner against Orlando City was a terrific moment in the young 2016 campaign. You can take your offside argument and bury it, because it counted, and it will always count. You won't see many who can strike a ball better than he does here.