Earlier this year, I pointed out that, while the Philadelphia Union were doing great things and they looked like they were real contenders. However, there was one part of the team that felt something like a void. That place was the No. 10 role of the 4-2-3-1 formation. The Union had used Alberg and Ilsinho to fill the role, but neither looked to be the consistent chance creator that the Union needed.
Tranquillo Barnetta has taken the role and ran with it, just like history suggested he would.
Barnetta has been given three straight starts and he has made the most of them. He’s notched two assists in those three games, but there could have been much more. Barnetta has given the void everything it’s needed, with creativity galore in his chance creation. He has gradually increased the number of chances he creates with each passing game.
Against San Jose, he created just the one that led to an assist. Prior to that there was his first assist against New York City FC, a match in which he created three chances. Given the pattern that we have developing, you can guess how many he created against the LA Galaxy – five.
Barnetta’s track proved that this is something that the Union should have expected. He has spent time in Germany, jumping around from club to club but spending the majority of his time at both FC Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen, although he found his most recent run of starting time at Eintracht Frankfurt. The trend has always been the same – give Barnetta the time and responsibility to create chances and he will do just that.
This year with Philadelphia, Barnetta is creating more chances then he has since 2009 with FC Schalke. He finished with ten assists in 31 appearances that year. While that return would no doubt be a welcome one for the Union, he figures to go above and beyond, as he is already at two assists in three starts, averaging an assist every 150 minutes. It’s a small sampling, but safe to say he is well above the pace of what he was at in 2009.
This creativity has kept the Union right where they have been at all year, but it will expand beyond that. Drawing against an oft-rampant LA Galaxy was a huge testament to where they stand in the overall MLS picture and Barnetta was right in the middle of that. Montreal is next up for the Union. You can bet that if the Union want to hold tight against the Eastern Conference leaders, a lot will have to come from Barnetta.