Call it a pairing that clicked.
On Saturday, the Union technical staff tried something a bit different and paired midfielder Michael Farfan in the midfield alongside Kleberson, the Brazilian playmaker acquired earlier this season. Farfan’s positioning was set up on the right side of the field with Danny Cruz moving to left mid, but while Cruz ran the flank, Farfan’s role was more of a second center mid that pushed out wide on the attack and tucked in to lend support defensively or to work off Kleberson in the midfield.
And the result?
According to the official stat sheet, the Union finished with 12 attempts on Chicago’s goal and arguably created twice as many chances – with the key this time being much of the link play was created through the center of the park in addition to coming from the back.
“We felt good about it,” said Union technical director Rob Vartughian who spoke of the alliance during media day Wednesday at PPL Park. “Kleberson is coming on in his second game and second ever start and he played a good game and the same goes for Michael…we are happy for Kleberson and what he’s been able to bring in the two games that he’s played, he’s given us a look at something different that maybe we weren’t getting, but I think the players around him complement him well.”
Vartughian has a valid point.
Farfan and Kleberson worked exceptionally well, but it has just been those two.
Whether paired with Farfan or fellow midfielders Keon Daniel or Brian Carroll, Kleberson has stood out and has strengthened a skilled third of the pitch. Union captain Brian Carroll said as much following Saturday’s 1-0 win.
“He’s got such good feet and great vision that he draws some attention from the [opposing] defense,” Carroll said of Kleberson postgame. “It helps our outside midfielders and forwards going into the attack and allows me to focus on solidifying us defensively. It gives me an extra second or two as well to find him or find someone else to switch the play [on the field]. We are happy to have someone of his caliber on the team.”
It also works well regarding matchups too. Cruz who customarily runs rampant down the right side of the pitch was shifted to the left last match in an effort to isolate him and match his speed down the flank against Chicago’s Wells Thompson, Vartughian admitted. But what it also did was effectively allow Farfan and Kleberson to control the distribution, not just to Cruz, but to the attack duo of Jack McInerney and Sebastien Le Toux who linked on the game’s only goal.
The good news is that Kleberson clearly adds a different dimension to the midfield corps.
The one thing technical will continue to evaluate is who pair’s best alongside to continue the team’s recent run of success – continuing on the road against Montreal this Saturday (7 p.m., The Comcast Network).
Contact Union writer Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org