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Marco Fabián’s tenure in Philadelphia a case of what could’ve been

The Philadelphia Union declined to extend Fabián’s contract, leaving us to wonder what could have been

MLS: Orlando City SC at Philadelphia Union Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Oh what could have been.

When the Philadelphia Union signed Marco Fabián in the offseason, I was convinced he would be the player to lead the Union to their first playoff win. While I was right, there was a lot that went wrong along the way.

Fabián joined the Union from Eintracht Frankfurt late in the offseason, and his first two games were a harbinger of what was to come. He converted a penalty in his first game, a 3-1 loss to Toronto FC and then was sent off in his second game when he was shown a questionable red card. The good could have been better, and the bad came with caveats and disclaimers.

MLS: MLS Cup Playoffs-Round One-New York Red Bulls at Philadelphia Union
Marco Fabián’s legacy with the Philadelphia Union will be full of asterisks, question marks, and other assorted punctuation marks.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Fabián missed almost a month in late April into May with an ankle injury he suffered at LA Galaxy before returning for 58 minutes and re-aggravating that injury, causing him to miss two more games, then two more before seemingly regaining his health and job. He started seven games in a row in July and August, and had four goals and an assist in that run. The Union however earned just 13 points of a possible 21 from those games, and as the highest paid player on the team he bore the brunt of the criticism. Never mind that the defense gave up a staggering 14 goals in that stretch, something that the attacking midfielder had little role in.

As the year wore on, it became more evident that the Union were content with what Brenden Aaronson was providing from the attacking midfield position. Fabián saw his minutes diminish as the Union used him as more of a bench option, and whether it was related or not he was suspended for missing a team meeting. That seemed to signify the end of things, especially when rumors started swirling about a return to Chivas.

What could have been? If Fabián doesn’t get the red card against Sporting Kansas City? If he doesn’t get injured against the Galaxy? If he can stay healthy throughout the year? In just the time he was able to play he scored seven goals, putting him behind only Kacper Przybylko on the Union’s season. Would he have been the face of the franchise?

Unfortunately we’ll never know.