Maidana a promise of what's to come, say Union brass
|Cristian Maidana, from his Spartak Moscow days, |
could have a big impact on the Union this season,
even if fanfare over his arrivals is subdued. (AP)
Those gimmicks are what have awaited the designated players of the Philadelphia Union’s past.
Cristian Maidana’s arrival to the club Tuesday was heralded by a press release. All of three paragraphs.
Some of is certainly timing, with the signing of the Argentine midfielder being finalized a mere 18 hours before the club was slated to host the coming together of American soccer’s biggest power players at the 2014 SuperDraft.
But it’s also a testament to the Union’s new direction, one that manager John Hackworth and CEO Nick Sakiewicz touted Thursday at the draft.
Maidana’s deal makes him just the third designated player in the Union’s four-plus years of existence ... the equivalent of what teams in Seattle, New York and Los Angeles call a transfer window. He follows in the underwhelming footsteps of fellow supposedly play-making midfielders Freddy Adu and Kleberson, one move precipitating the other in 2013 and yielding not much more success.
But where Adu’s arrival was the occasion for a stadium press event and Kleberson’s an excuse to bring together the Philadelphia Brazilian community, Maidana’s wasn’t gotten much fanfare. The draft and the Union’s major moves there have overshadowed it, as has the prospect of the Maurice Edu acquisition, a transaction that supersedes Maidana’s in terms of both media attention and potential on-field value. And perhaps there’s also the hope that the divergence in the arrivals of Maidana compared to his DP predecessors also translates into a difference in quality in a Union kit.
There may still be time for all the bells and whistles once Maidana’s visas are finalized and he meets up with the club. But such has been the profile of the Union’s other postseason dealings that Maidana’s capture was relegated to almost an afterthought in discussions Thursday.
The Union brass hope that is a sign of the team’s increased commitment of funds this offseason.
“I’ve been saying that for a long time, but I just couldn’t really prove it until we brought some of those guys in,” Hackworth said of his team’s commitment to spend. “That’s been a work in progress, and a lot of work, to be fair. I asked the fans to be patient and trust that we were trying to build this thing. This has been a long-term plan for us, to build through last year, build up these resources so we could kind of go after it this year. We’re still working hard on a couple more.”
On the field, the 26-year-old who counts stamps from Russia, Spain and Mexico on his pro soccer passport is a breath of fresh air for a side crying out for creativity last year. He’s a left-footed player who can occupy the Union’s criminally underserved flank, and he also has the kind of creativity to play in the “hole” behind the strikers. In the parlance of Argentine soccer, as relayed by Hackworth, Maidana is an enganche, a No. 10.
“He also has this ability to play wide left,” Hackworth said. “He’s a very good winger as well. When I went and watched him live in a premier game in Argentina, he played as a No. 10. But I’ve also seen him play as a left winger, so his versatility gives us a lot to work with right from the start.”
What Maidana also brings to town is the promise to Union fans that a different era of investment is dawning. Talk of his arrival didn’t posit him as the culmination of investment, but rather as an excuse to spend more and emphatically awaken a long dormant offseason.
“Maidana is a terrific player,” Sakiewicz said. “He’s going to light up that left side in a nice way for us. He’s established. He’s still young. He’s battle-hardened playing in Argentina’s first division. He’s also traveled the world and played in Russia and other big clubs, so he’s a good first start.”
“It’s always difficult because you want to make sure that your work and really announcing some of these signings, I think all of our fans and me, we would’ve liked to have done this a littler earlier than now,” Hackworth said. “I try not to read too much of the stuff that’s out there, but there’s a lot out there, and a lot gets back to me and a lot gets back to our organization. So hopefully the fans and everybody knows that the things that we’ve been saying, we’ve been consistent with. And now hopefully out words speak a lot louder than our words.”