Maidana takes MLS assist lead despite Philly fizzle

The rough-and-tumble MLS season endured by the Philadelphia Union so far this season hasn’t deterred midfielder Cristian Maidana from tying a club record and taking over the league lead in assists.

MLS Assist Leaders:
Cristian Maidana, PHI 14
Benny Feilhaber, SKC 13
Ethan Finlay, CLB 12
Sebastian Giovinco, TOR 11
Javier Morales, RSL 9

ldquo;If you’re a striker, the player you want behind you is a player like him,” forward Fernando Aristeguieta, who converted one of the three assists in a 3-3 tie with Chicago Sunday that pushed Maidana into the league lead with 14, told MLSSoccer.com. “He is a player that, every time he receives hate ball, can figure out to create a location with a pass to you, a pass to the line for a cross, with a shot, with a dribble. It’s a player that’s different than us. As a striker, it’s very easy to play in front of him.”

Maidana’s feat took away only some of the disappointment of blown leads that left Philly with one point instead of a desperately needed three. He set up Aristeguieta with a corner kick in the 21st minute, slipped a ball that Fabinho drove into the net 10 minutes later, and delivered the pass for Sebastian Le Toux to score an apparent game-winner in the 90th minute.

Chicago rallied again to score in stoppage time, which stripped away a valuable two points but didn't detract from Maidana's excellent display.

“I’m proud at the moment for what I’ve done,” said Maidana through a translator to MLSsoccer.com. “If the team gets more goals because of it, I feel proud of it. I’m really happy here in MLS and so is my family. I hope I can stay in the United States for a while and continue to help the team.”

The trio tied a team record for a single game and broke the team record of 12 assists that Le Toux set in 2013. Maidana fell one assist short of that mark last year, his first season in MLS, and now has compiled 25 assists in 48 regular-season games. He’s got a chance of reaching 20 assists this season, a feat accomplished by only one player in league history; Colombian maestro Carlos Valderrama, who notched the MLS record of 26 in 2000.

“[Cristian] is a good passer of the ball, a special player,” said Union head coach Jim Curtin. “He had a couple of chances to get a goal tonight, too. 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.”

In addition to his three assists, Maidana launched four shots. Three were on frame and two required sharp saves by Fire keeper Sean Johnson, whose eight saves were as instrumental in the game’s outcome as Maidana’s hat trick of assists.

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