Brian Carroll admittedly isn’t a flashy player.
He’s hardly ever the guy that will take over the game. He’s the guy that after it, sits quietly in his locker room stall reflecting on what was.
But at the same time, what Carroll is good at is doing the things that go unnoticed...unless you are really looking.
This Saturday against Chicago (5 p.m., Comcast SportsNet), Carroll will play his 100th match in a Philadelphia Union uniform. He’s been the quiet constant on a team filled with personalities.
But it’s not just Carroll. Ray Gaddis in a filler role for Sheanon Williams at right back has not just been solid on defense, but gives the opposition fits with his speed and his tendency to push higher and join the attack.
Over the past four games, the two have done the little things to aid in the plethora of chances the Union has generated this season, even some that have resulted in Union goals.
Let’s take a look…
Ray Gaddis vs. Portland (March 8)
Almost every game you can find Ray Gaddis in the mix of the attack, streaking down the right side of the pitch and sitting almost near the touchline to whip in a cross from the flank or even at a minimum stretch the field. If you fast forward to the 4:45 mark of this clip, you’ll see Gaddis instinctively recognize the counterattack and immediately make a run to the flag in support of teammate Cristian Maidana.
Now even though Maidana decides to cut inside as opposed to laying off to Gaddis, Gaddis’ role of forcing Maidana’s defender to make a decision to drop deep and away (4:50 mark) allowed Chaco to only have to beat one man instead of two, create space and get off a decent shot on goal at Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts (4:54 mark).
Brian Carroll vs. Columbus Crew (March 22)
At the 5:58 mark of this clip, we see excellent recognition from Brian Carroll. A throw-in from Waylon Francis on the near side of the field compacted the space on the near side. As the opposition, looking for a clear with so many bodies in front, there are two choices for the Crew to make in this situation:
- Send a clearance down the line on the near side, and hope a Union deflection allows for a throw-in farther up the field.
- Send a clearance into the middle of the park allowing play to shift and give some time for both teams to create some semblance of shape.
Recognizing the latter option, watch Carroll (bottom left on the screen) pull away from the near side and get himself back towards the middle. The rest is what you see, the clear is high and to the middle, lands right to Carroll who heads right into the path of teammate Leo Fernandes, who creates an opportunity on frame.
The announcers even recognize that the field at that point mimicked a Saturday morning U9 scrum and if you listen closely you’ll hear one comment on just how tight that area was.
Ray Gaddis vs. Columbus Crew (March 22)
In the same clip let’s rewind to the 4:23 mark. On a Columbus clearance away from its 18-yard-box, the ball lands at Gaddis’ feet. He pushes into space away from a Crew defender and now has two options.
- Play a square pass to an open Maurice Edu about five yards away (4:22 mark). Which would have been an OK decision given Edu could have turned and switched the direction of the attack
- Or utilize the space and time to find an open man in the box with a cross.
Again, the latter decision which Gaddis makes pays dividends as it causes a dangerous scramble which the Union – courtesy of a one-two combination play and goal from Fernandes – takes full advantage of.
Brian Carroll vs. Montreal (March 29)
The following will consist of three snippets all involving Carroll in the 1-1 draw against Montreal. The first comes at the 0:33 second mark of the highlight reel. It’s the near goal from midfielder Vincent Nogueira. It all starts with Carroll forcing Montreal’s Collen Warner to go to his left, and then watch as Carroll peels off Warner and breaks up a Marco DiVaio run into the 18. With a quick touch to control, Carroll then sends Nogueira off to the races.
Fast forward to the 1:44 mark of the highlight reel; this is a great play because only Carroll recognizes where the ball might go and with a better delivery it's possible he could've had goal of his own. He starts off the free kick by camping out at the penalty kick spot and then in one quick move crashes the back post. He would’ve been Johnny on the Spot if:
- Montreal goalkeeper Troy Perkins mishandled the clearance, or…
- Maidana sent that ball in a little more far post.
Regardless of whether or not that run was by design or just instinct, it was the smart place to be in that situation.
And finally, the 1:55 mark of this video shows the impetus of Nogueira’s first goal in Major League Soccer is courtesy of another recognized play from Carroll. In this one, you’ll see him follow the developing Montreal charge from the left to the right of the screen. As the ball advances to Impact defender Heath Pearce out wide, watch what happens when Pearce cuts back. Carroll recognizes Pearce’s lone option (2:06 mark) – a pass back to Warner which he gets in front of and cuts off (2:08 mark). He then plays a first-time ball to Jack McInerney and you know the end result.
Gaddis and Carroll, proving that in this game doing all the little things do really matter.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org