A December 22, 2016 post on MLSSoccer.com authored by contributor Will Parchman stated that Tranquillo Barnetta is the Philadelphia Union’s all-time best player. His support for the claim was a quote from club manager Jim Curtin,
That’s basically all that was said. No mention of any other player from the seven years of the franchise, other than, “Union don’t perhaps have a single abiding international star name here.” That was true of the franchise this past season, as I don’t think anyone would consider Alejandro Bedoya an international “star”, but that can’t be said for the whole of team history. Parchman’s criteria are as follows:
Barnetta was an important part of the 2016 team. His technical ability and attitude were on par with the best players for every team in this league. It’s the second part of his parameters that makes this a curious choice. The Swiss international played a grand total of 40 league matches over a season and a half. He tallied 6 goals in those 40 matches. Yes, he had impact beyond getting his name on the score sheet, but so did a few other Union players. And, really, it isn’t even Parchman’s opinion since he said he took Jim Curtin’s opinion, and ran with it.
Here are 6 other players I feel should have been discussed for the #1 spot.
- Vincent Nogueira
He’s the best box-to-box midfielder Union have ever had. Though diminutive in physical stature, he ferocity and adept skill made him a force all over the pitch. There have been other midfielders who have been as good at regaining possession, but none that could also dissect the opposition defense like #5. The 2016 season showed Nogueira’s value also after leaving the club as not even the aforementioned Barnetta could adequately fill that role. It would have been close, but I could have accepted Vincent being named the team’s best ever.
- Carlos Ruiz
Ruiz, whose stay was extremely brief, was still productive. And, he was an active international player for Guatemala. In years prior to this, he was an MLS MVP (before the trophy was renamed for that Donovan guy). His goals-per-90-minutes ratio is the highest in club history for players who logged at least 1,000 minutes. However, I would have considered this a troll-move had he been named “best ever.”
- Faryd Mondragon
The Colombian international had the best single season for a goalkeeper in club history. His leadership and experience was critical in getting the 2011 team to that year’s MLS Playoffs. Taking into account the statistics of the other keepers prior to and immediately after him further proves his quality, though for just the lone campaign. Goalkeepers, ultimately, don’t get enough love to be anyone’s best overall player, unless the rest of your team reeeeeally stinks.
- Carlos Valdes
I couldn’t mention that stout 2011 defense that got the team to the playoffs and not mention the standout center back from that year. He played just two seasons, but his play in 2011, and his strong start in 2012 got him elected to the 2012 MLS All-Star Team. It also put him on the radar of Jose Pekerman, who would go on to name Valdes to Colombia’s 2014 World Cup squad. Had the 2012 team maintained their stellar overall defending, there’d have been a great case for Valdes considering Mondragon departed after 2011. But that second year, combined with his post-2014 World Cup return to Union eroded a bit of his luster.
- Brian Carroll
His style of play is zero-frills, but he has forged a long and distinguished career in MLS by doing the dirty work. His tireless efforts in front of his back-four have served as a security blanket that his managers love to cling to. The club’s all-time leader in appearances, he is the only player to have been on both Union playoff rosters, so that has to count for something. He’s been a great servant to the club, but he hasn’t been “great” for enough of a duration to be considered Union’s best ever.
- Sebastien Le Toux
Here’s who I think should have been named. He has the two best statistical seasons for any Union player, and he has double the number of goals for this club over 2nd-place Jack McInerney. He’s also the franchise’s assists leader. Seba set the Union single-season record for goals in 2010, with 14. He also added 11 assists that season, making it 25 total goals created. He followed that up with 11 goals and 9 assists in 2011. Le Toux stayed productive after returning from his 2012 season that was spent in Vancouver and New York, in spite of being played as a right winger instead of striker. He doesn’t his set pieces like Barnetta, or Cristian Maidana. He isn’t as savvy as “El Pescadito” Ruiz. His touch betrayed him on several occasions. But, he has provided the best play ever by a member of the Philadelphia Union.