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Tactical Analysis: Should Fabian Herbers be starting?

Should the second year player be Jim Curtin’s starter over the Brazilian Ilsinho?

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Orlando City SC Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

In this week’s tactical analysis, instead of rehashing the Philadelphia Union’s woes, we are going to look at in-depth at a position battle between Ilsinho and Fabian Herbers.

Both players joined the Union in the 2016 offseason. Ilsinho joined the side using Targeted allocation Money, while Herbers was selected sixth overall in the 2016 Major League Soccer SuperDraft.

It is no secret this team needs a spark of any sorts. The large albatross around this is the zero wins to start this season through five games, and a winless streak dating back to August 2016.

However, one player has shown he is head and shoulders above in all aspects. Let’s take a look at their statlines from the 2016 campaign and see if you can guess who is who.

Ilsinho vs. Fabian Herbers

Player Year Club GP GS G MINS A SHTS SOG
Player Year Club GP GS G MINS A SHTS SOG
Player A 2016 Philadelphia Union 32 13 3 1290 7 32 14
Player B 2016 Philadelphia Union 25 14 2 1286 2 30 7
Guess which player is which

Give up?

Player A is Herbers and B is Ilsinho. To be fair, Herbers did make a few starts at striker throughout the season until he was moved to the wing. He scored two of his goals and tallied an assist at striker, also taking more shots on goal while at striker.

Still, the point stands. Herbers created more goals on the wing than Ilsinho, which is easily seen with the assist tallies (six to two in favor of the rookie).

How do the two compare on the defensive side?

Ilsinho is an offensive player - that’s the entire reason Earnie Stewart and Jim Curtin brought him into the side in 2016. In the press release about his signing, Curtin said of Ilsinho that “his elite-level attacking ability speaks for itself”. It’s easy to search on twitter GIFs of Ilsinho owning defenders last season.

Here’s some of those moments:

While all of the nutmegs show how good Ilsinho can be on the ball, the good Ilsinho has to be taken with the bad Ilsinho. For as good as he is on the ball, his defensive abilities are, certainly, well, let’s say lacking.

Yellow=Recoveries, Blue=Interceptions, Green=Tackles
Ilsinho’s defensive work versus Portland Timbers FC

Almost all of Ilsinho’s defensive work comes in the first two thirds of the field versus Portland Timbers FC. Sure, maybe against a weaker offensive side this could slide. But, against Portland, Ilsinho did not give Keegan Rosenberry the proper help against Darlington Nagbe, who had his way with the Union defense for portions of the match.

Herbers plays both sides of the ball more consistently as he does track back much more than Ilsinho. Playing both sides of the ball can be a tiresome feat, which is why there is a role for both Herbers and Ilsinho on this squad.

With all things considered, the Brazilian is much more suited for the role of supersub (20-25 minutes a game). He can come on and, if the team is trailing or tied, can help the squad push on in the attack to create more chances on net.

Long term, Ilsinho is not going to be in the future core of this team. The former Shaktar Donetsk winger makes nearly four and a half times as much as Herbers. At some point, the potential of what Ilsinho can do on the field becomes far less important than what he has already done on the field.