This week, the New York Red Bulls extended the loan of a forward who has yet to score in MLS despite making six starts. On the surface, it seems a bit unorthodox. Forwards, after all, are supposed to score goals.
But the pairing of Brazilian forward Fabio with the New York Red Bulls is a perfect couple. One that should take off in MLS play sooner rather than later. Even if Fabio hasn’t scored yet.
More from MLS Multiplex
Not to knock on the player but Fabio didn’t come in to MLS with exactly an impressive resume, having played most recently in Brazil’s third division and the second division in Japan. He also, as already noted, hasn’t scored yet in MLS.
Oh, and he’s never played first division football.
So why would the New York Red Bulls be eager to extend the loan of a player who hasn’t produced in MLS? And one who doesn’t have a track record at a high level? And not only extend his loan but have an option to buy?
In the most typical of Red Bulls answers: Upside and fit.
The 24-year old forward is an ideal fit on a team where the system is paramount. Despite being 6-foot-4-inches, Fabio has tremendous mobility that, when combined with his work rate makes him intriguing up top for a Red Bulls team that asks their forwards to press with abandon.
Fabio also plays well in space, something that a team built to thrive in transition likes to see in a forward. The ability to play with one or two touches then vacate space is big when the Red Bulls central midfielders make deep runs into the final third. The intelligence factor is big for a team that creates organized chaos when they press.
His four assists are evidence of a player with a high IQ in the game and the vision to quickly dissect space and movement.
His hold-up play is also big, something that can help when the team plays long to relieve pressure.
This is the case of the New York Red Bulls not caring about perception or outside noise. Last month, their crosstown rival, New York City FC, signed Talles Magno. A 19-year old, Magno is a former U17 international with Brazil and considered one of the top attacking prospects in the world.
And Fabio, a bit more established and without the hype, has never played first division soccer. Not to beat an already dead horse but there is certainly a difference between the two players.
Yet Red Bull doesn’t care. This is a case, a fascinating one at that, for the Red Bull global scouting network, considered one of the best in the world. In Fabio, there is the belief that there is a diamond in the rough, a player with potential who, more than anything, is a fit.
Somewhere, Luke Rodgers is smiling.
And while Magno is exciting for NYCFC, the Red Bulls believe that Fabio can be a difference maker. And as their history in the MLS Cup Playoffs shows, this franchise has struggled to find difference makers. But Fabio’s fit makes a system that is all about the system, really and truly click.
Alongside Patryk Klimala, a Polish U21 international recently signed from Celtic, the New York Red Bulls might finally have a forward tandem in place that can break teams down come the playoffs. If Fabio can do that, his resume simply doesn’t matter.