This time of year should be Marco Fabián’s.
The Union’s first home playoff game in eight years should be a moment on which the team’s biggest-ever player stamps his authority. It should prove why Union owner Jay Sugarman agreed to pay the team’s biggest-ever salary for the Mexican national team star.
But the widespread skepticism about that happening is well-earned. Even though Fabián ranks No. 2 on the team in goals (7) and shots (65), No. 5 in pass completion percentage (86.0%) and No. 3 in chances created per game (1.3), he has played just 1,251 of a possible 3,180 minutes.
Obviously, the sprained (and later reinjured) ankle caused him to miss six games in the spring was a factor on the stat sheet. There have also been signs, though, that he hasn’t fit in tactically the way the team hoped he would.
If Fabián can help the Union achieve their first playoff win, the script will be rewritten.
“For me, I don’t care what happened in my past. I just focus on the next game,” Fabián said this week as the Union prepared to host the New York Red Bulls on Sunday (3 p.m., Fox Sports 1 and Fox Deportes).
“My focus right now is my present, Sunday, and I feel good,” he said. “If I have a chance [to play], I’ll try my best. If not, I’ll just support my team.”
Fabián is no stranger to soccer crucibles. He has played in two World Cups, a Copa América, World Cup qualifiers, a Club World Cup, the Concacaf Champions League, a German Cup final, a Bundesliga relegation playoff, South America’s famed Copa Libertadores, and a slew of Mexican league playoff games.
So while this is his first — and perhaps only — year in MLS, he knows how it feels to be in a big-game spotlight.
“I know it’s a different moment, a different season — and here it’s more pressure because it’s knockout; it’s just one game,” Fabián said. “We have a little advantage because we play at home. It’s one plus for us, a motivation, because we are with our people, with our stadium. But on the pitch, it’s different: One mistake and maybe we can lose, and we can lose all the season.”
Though the Union’s regular season ended with just one win in the last five games, Fabían hopes the team’s long run in first place this season gives the rest of the squad the mental strength to play with confidence Sunday.
“I know the Red Bulls have a good team. Their defense is so good,” he said. “But we try to focus on our game and try to go offensive, try to score goals. That is the first thing we have on our mind. ... We want to win; we want to do something. I said when I came here, it doesn’t matter how, but I want to get something with this team, and right now it’s a big moment."