Cristian Maidana: Where does he stack up among MLS playmakers?


Mar 22, 2014; Columbus, OH, USA; Philadelphia Union midfielder Cristian Maidana (10) dribbles the ball in the first half of the game against the Columbus Crew at Crew Stadium. The Columbus Crew beat the Philadelphia Union by the score of 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

After the Philadelphia Union announced the signing of Argentine midfielder Cristian Maidana in January, it appeared as though the team had finally added the creative player that its fans so desperately desired. Add Vincent Noguiera and Maurice Edu to the mix, and Philadelphia had an entire overhaul in the midfield.

Maidana previously made a living in countries such as Spain, Mexico, Chile, and Russia in large part to his technical ability and quality on the ball. After Philadelphia barely missed out on the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference a season ago, there was no denying that the signing of “Chaco” was a part in “the next step” for the Union.

Philadelphia began their season in Portland, and if it weren’t for a defensive lapse in added time, the Union would have walked away with three points. Instead, the Timbers managed a point in a 1-1 draw. Regardless of the outcome, Sons of Ben and the rest of the Union fan base were excited about their team once again.

Thanks to a dream-like debut, Maidana was the biggest bright spot in the midfield and won the hearts of supporters immediately. It was his set-up that ultimately found Maurice Edu who headed it toward goal before Jack McInerney flicked it in for the lone goal. With that aside, Chaco was all over the field, controlling the ball at will, making clever passes, taking defenders on, and creating opportunities for others at a rapid rate.

Now, in July, Maidana has 7 assists, good for 3rd in MLS, in 14 starts. Overall, the left-footed midfielder has made 16 appearance for Philadelphia, twice as a substitute. While 3rd in MLS in anything is rather impressive, his efficiency is really eye-catching. Only Fabian Espindola of DC United is currently averaging more assists per 90 minutes among players that have logged at least 10 starts. Espindola currently sits at 0.59 while Maidana trails slightly with 0.55.

Here is just one beauty that he delivered to Conor Casey who easily found the back of the net for his second goal of the match against Chivas USA.

Despite the team’s rough start to the season, the Argentine Designated Player for the Union has demonstrated a ton of qualities in which he has to be mentioned among the best in MLS for. His ability to have the ball on a string is quite possibly unmatched in the league, he makes probing runs from the midfield, opens up opportunities for his teammates using his creativity, and has even netted two goals of his own, including the game-winner late in Philadelphia’s most impressive win thus far at Sporting Kansas City.

As scary as it may seem, the numbers do not come close to doing Maidana justice. While his assist numbers automatically put him among the best playmakers in MLS, the revolving door at the forward position that he has been forced to deal with makes it all the more remarkable. Whether it was Jack McInerney early on in the season, Andrew Wenger, or Conor Casey in that role, he has consistently been able to put them in dangerous areas in and around the penalty area.

Perhaps the most underrated quality of Maidana is his versatility. Naturally a left midfielder, he has shown the ability to facilitate from the channel by delivering quality crosses, being dynamic in 1v1 situations, and combining with central players. In addition to all of that, he has shown the ability to come underneath of the forwards in more of a true No.10 role and deliver world-class passes.

For just his first season in MLS, Maidana has made quite the impact. While Philadelphia has quite a history of stunting the growth of promising young prospects, the experienced midfielder has perhaps made fans forget about that, at least for a little while longer as he continues to produce on a weekly basis. Regardless of who the opponent is and who is on the sideline coaching the Union, if No.10 is pulling the strings, they will always have a chance.

Where do you rank Maidana among the top playmakers in MLS?