Chaco corner

When people think of soccer, they often first think about goals and occasionally, the lack thereof. They think about shots that are ripped into the top corner, curled in from a free kick or chipped goals from midfield (ala Carli Lloyd) and maybe, just maybe, they think about the goalkeeper who is facing those shots.

No one ever talks about the passes though. The cross-field passes to the wide open man and the corner kicks that curl in at ridiculous angles tend to go unnoticed. For those who follow soccer closely, the passes that some professional soccer players are able to pull off are works of art (it’s called “the beautiful game” for a reason).

For the Union, the passing has been lost in the shuffle of their season which has seen both spectacular goals like Eric Ayuk’s strike against Montreal and saves like John McCarthy’s ridiculous performance against the Red Bulls in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. When we look past moments like that, we see that the Union have a puppeteer pulling all of the strings, a master artist who is using the field as a canvas.

Following the game against the Chicago Fire on Sunday night, Cristian “Chaco” Maidana now has 14 assists for the Union this year, good enough for most in the league. To put this in perspective, the Union have scored 32 goals this year, which means Maidana has single-handedly assisted on 44 percent of the team’s goals. No other player in the league has assisted on a higher percentage of their team’s goals, not even MVP-favorites Sebastian Giovinco and Benny Feilhaber who sit at 30 percent and 35 percent respectively.

And to top it off – with his 14 assists – Maidana has now broken the Union’s single-season record of 12, previously held by Sebastien Le Toux of the 2013 season.

“I’m very content about this,” Maidana told reporters through a translator after Sunday’s game. “They just recently told me about it and I’m happy to help out the team in any way I can. It’s a shame that we didn’t get a win tonight but at least we got the point and I’ve got to keep moving forward and help the team in any way I can whether it be assists or another way.”

Assisting isn’t a new thing for Maidana either, who racked up 11 in 26 games last year. Since joining the Union prior to the 2014-2015 season, Maidana has 25 assists in league play, the most in the league over that time.

“If you’re a striker, the player you want behind you is a player like him,” Fernando Aristeguieta said. “As a player that every time he receives the ball he can figure it out and create a chance with a pass to you, with a pass down line for a cross, with a shot, with a dribble. He’s a different player than us and for a striker it’s very easy to play in front of him.”

The game was Maidana’s third multi-assist game of the season and fifth of his career. It was also the third time that he has assisted on three goals in one game, the other two times being against the Portland Timbers on July 11 of this year and against the Vancouver Whitecaps on June 7, 2014.

“He’s a good passer of the ball, obviously a special player,” said Jim Curtin following Sunday’s game. “He had a couple of chances to get a goal tonight too, but again, he was dynamic. He set up a lot of our chances. Most of our goals do come through him; he’s special in that regard.”

Perhaps the most impressive part of Maidana’s 14 assists is that they have come in only 22 appearances. After getting 11 in 26 games last year, there are still enough games remaining for Maidana to crack the 20-assists mark, something that has only been done once before in MLS history when Carlos Valderrama got 26 in 2000.

“He’s calm on the ball, he gets in dangerous positions, he serves the ball in both in the run of play and on set pieces so he’s an important piece for us and we need to keep feeding him the ball and letting him create,” Brian Carroll said. “Maybe he’s underrated now but as long as he keeps doing that I don’t think he’ll be underrated for much longer.”

Contact Union writer Kyle Basedow at