Now in the fold, how to fit Fred into the Union
That poses the question: Where does Fred fit into the 2014 team?
|The value of Fred, seen here sliding in on D.C. United's Chris Pontius |
in an April 10, 2010 game, is very likely to exceed the number of minutes
he gets on the pitch this season. (AP)
Part of the reason why the Union sought him out and allowed him to train with them for the entire preseason before finally securing his services is that Fred gives manager John Hackworth so many ways to answer that question.
“Fred gives us another option in the midfield, more depth, but also good leadership,” Hackworth said in his weekly press conference Tuesday at PPL Park. “I think he can play as the No. 10. I think in certain positions, you could play him in wide positions. Even as a No. 8, it’s not like he doesn’t have the engine to go up and down the field. But Fred’s creativity and ability to open up a game are certainly more valuable as an attacking midfielder.”
Through the admittedly small sample size of the Union’s three-game start to the season, there’s no indication that the current occupiers of those starting positions are in danger of giving way. Despite some stumbles here and there, it’s been by and large a purposeful introduction to MLS for the likes of Cristian Maidana, Vincent Nogueira and Maurice Edu.
The Union have benefitted from the change of pace offered by Leo Fernandes, arguably their most offensively-productive player through three games, and the role Hackworth describes for Fred is likely similar to the one Fernandes is playing.
We’ve also yet to see all the potential permutations – like moving Maidana more centrally, using Jack McInerney as a wing forward, etc. – which could open opportunities for the likes of Fred. While Hackworth’s substitution patterns usually favor energy (i.e. Danny Cruz and Antoine Hoppenot), you could imagine a situation where Fred’s more clinical touch on the ball could be called for late.
That’s not to mention the length of the season where injuries and suspensions (McInerney and Fabinho are already 40 percent there on yellow-card accumulation) inevitably occur, plus the Union could face time without Edu should he find his way onto the U.S. plane for Brazil this summer. Then there are those U.S. Open Cup dates which could give Fred an opening to show his stuff.
The other impression you get from Hackworth, though, is that those are conversations for another day. The Union’s recent investment in Brazilian talent, young and old, has been, well, spotty. Fred, at the very least, brings a veteran presence to the office every day, a steady hand who has been through the MLS rigors before and has a way of making his teammates better by ratcheting up the competition in training.
Even if he never plays a competitive minute, you get the sense that Hackworth would still be getting his money’s worth.
“He also makes training better,” Hackworth said. “He’s a veteran in the locker room. There’s a lot of things that Fred brings to this team that right now nobody probably recognizes.”