Every season we hear the same thing. The Philadelphia Union need a major DP signing and need a strong number 10. The Union number 10 role has been a revolving door, with players like Roland Alberg, Tranquillo Barnetta, Borek Dockal all coming and going after relatively short stints. So who would be next?
Enter Marco Fabian, a Mexican international with three years of experience in the German Bundesliga with Eintracht Frankfurt. That sounds great, but it leaves out some big question marks. In his three seasons with Frankfurt, Fabian only made 43 appearances, as his time in Germany was riddled with back injuries. His best season was his first full season after signing with the club in 2016, making 24 appearances with 7 goals and 4 assists. After that, his seasons were mostly down. In his next two seasons he made 8 league appearances with 1 goal. But the Union took a relatively low risk and signed him to the highest DP contract in team history (roughly about $2.5 million) on a free transfer.
In the 2019 MLS regular season, Fabian played 23 games and scored 7 goals with 1 assist. Sound familiar? If you look at that stat line, had he stayed healthy with no red cards or missing team meetings, he may have finished with 10 goals on the season. He made a few unfavorable headlines, being left off the team because he missed a team meeting and also receiving a red card early in the season after stamping on Johnny Russell in the Union’s match against Sporting KC.
But he showed the ability to finish from distance and make an instant impact on the field, when he wanted to. He scored stunning goals like this one against Chicago Fire:
He reminded me of Roland Alberg in that didn’t want to track back when needed at times, didn’t flow well with the team but could bang out spectacular goals. Even their MLS stats are essentially the same. In 2016, Alberg played 28 games with 9 goals and 1 assist. In 2017, Alberg played 24 games with 7 goals and no assists.
So basically they got an overpaid, overpriced version of Alberg.
But that’s only the tale of the regular season. MLS analysts always have this cliché “you need players to step up in the most important moments and deliver.” Fabian seemed to be that guy who could come on and get you a goal, but just never fit the bill as someone who could save the Union’s season. Guys like Ilsinho and Kacper Przybylko captured all the Union headlines and Fabian didn’t seem to be a factor going into the Union’s home playoff game against the New York Red Bulls. But tied 3-3 in extra time, Marco Fabian stepped onto the field and delivered that moment analysts talk about, a moment no Union fan will ever forget.
105+1'— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) October 22, 2019
BIGGEST. GOAL. IN. UNION. HISTORY.
Long version: Again, Ilsinho ball behind the line, Red Bull too tired to transition well, @raygaddis reads the outlet, Haris stunning crossfield ball, @Fafagoal23 never stops... it's all here, folks. #PhillyOrNothing | #ReplayTheMagic pic.twitter.com/u6ezaNgluD
Was that goal worth $2.5 million? It’s debatable, but Marco Fabian etched his name in the Union’s history and the memory of the ball somehow finding the back of the net, propelling the Union to their first playoff win will live on forever.