Call Brian Carroll’s portion of the field “the comfort zone.”
As the Union midfielder prepares for his fourth season in a Union uniform, his role as been made considerably less taxing courtesy of the offseason acquisitions in Maurice Edu and Vincent Nogueira. It’s been evident during the Union’s month long preseason trip in Florida and showed specifically in matches against the Columbus Crew and Toronto FC in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic.
For starters, Carroll doesn’t need to cover nearly as much ground as in previous years. Instead of being the stop gap between the attack in addition to the tip of the spear on defense, Carroll has been able to assist in keeping shape and distributing the ball, primarily to the flanks, where another Union newcomer in Cristian Maidana showcases considerable talent.
In Union manager John Hackworth’s new look 4-3-3 formation, where offensively the attacking midfielders in Nogueira and Edu are free to roam and create in the center of the park, Carroll’s role now has switched to keeping shape both on the attack and defensively in addition to breaking up plays and oppositional counterattacks that start in the middle of the field.
It’s cliché to say, but the old adage “what a difference a year makes” certainly holds weight in the case of Carroll.
“Theoretically, it makes my job easier, yeah, but at the same time we all need to come together and make this team the best we can,” Carroll said. “I think we’ll all make each other’s job easier and I know they will for me because in many ways they already have even this early in preseason. I am looking forward to continuing to work with them, getting better and growing with this new group of guys.”
On Tuesday when Hackworth took to social media for a takeover of the Union’s Twitter account, a question was raised about Carroll’s role this season. The Union manager said while the influx of offseason talent as created competition, he remained confident that Carroll will rise to the challenge.
— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) February 25, 2014
When asked about the apparent ease of Carroll this season than in year’s past, Hackworth told philadelphiaunion.com:
“The players in front of him have allowed Brian to do what Brian does best,” Hackworth said. “He’ll always do the work and has never shied away from that at all, but now he’s able to go about his job smarter and I think as all of our midfielders continue to build their relationships, I think we’ll see these guys really start to execute our offense a lot better – and much of that starts with BC.”
Carroll has always been the quiet constant; not just in a Union uniform but with previous clubs that he helped guide to MLS Cup titles (D.C. United in 2004 and Columbus in 2010). The one significance in both of those Cup wins was that the unit around Carroll was strong. In an offseason in which the Union technical staff make major strides to bolster its midfield, Carroll has remained constant and hopes he can help bring that same breed of success to a franchise desperate for championship contention come the end of the regular season.
“[Edu and Nogueira] cover a lot of ground so it allows me to focus on other responsibilities on the field,” said Carroll. “I don’t have to as much ‘chasing’ or ‘dirty work’ however you want to classify it. Hopefully, I continue to make their jobs easier…my job is helping us come together better and making us the best we possibly can game in and game out. With the inclusion of certain guys in the offseason there come greater expectations as a whole for this team. Now that has to translate onto the field and that’s part of my job to make sure it does.”
Thoughts on Carroll’s comments? Leave your comment below.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org