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Season review: Michael “Marfan” Farfan

Photo: Nicolae Stoian

Editor’s note: At the end of the 2010 season, we posted a series of season reviews of every Philadelphia Union player. Over the next several weeks PSP continues with a review of the 2011 season.

Scouts spend all year watching college players on the field, then they show up at the January combine and throw it all out the window.

At least that’s the impression you get if you look at the mock drafts prior to last year’s MLS college combine. Michael Farfan was a top ten prospect in all three MLSSoccer.com Top 30 lists. Two of MLSSoccer.com’s experts had him as a top six pick on January 7, 2011, a day before the combine; the Philadelphia Union were stunned that Farfan was available with the 23rd pick in the draft only six days later.

“First of all it was very surprising for us to see Michael [Farfan] over there. At the combine he didn’t shine that much, because the combine is different from playing with your team every single game,” Peter Nowak said after the draft.

The Union did their scouting well. Unless MLS starts breaking ties with a skills competition, the combine will continue to be an extremely poor indicator of future success. Other players who did not stand out at the 2011 combine: Zac MacMath, Anthony Ampaipitakwong, and Rookie of the Year CJ Sapong. All three were major contributors in their first season.

Michael Farfan did not see his first MLS minute until April 30 when Mark Geiger’s asinine decision-making left the Union down to ten against San Jose. Farfan started the next match—a loss to Portland—before returning to the subs bench for the next two. Reinstalled to the starting eleven against Chicago, Marfan put on a masterful first forty-five but was moved to the back line 13 minutes into the second half.

Though he scored against Chicago, Marfan sat out the next two matches. Upon returning against Real Salt Lake, he notched an assist and found himself in the middle of a controversy when the referee ignored a mugging of the Union rookie at midfield in the buildup to the RSL goal.

Peter Nowak must have seen something he didn’t like because Marfan would not start again for almost two months. When he did, it was at right back.

The epic 4-4 comeback tie against New England was a coming out party for Roger Torres and Sebastien Le Toux. But it was Farfan who caught the coaching staff’s eye as a second half sub.

He started the next match against Portland, then again against Columbus. Suddenly the team had their first win in two months and Michael Farfan looked like the winger Justin Mapp was supposed to be. He was dynamic and reliable, flashy but consistent, and he added a dimension that had been missing from the team’s attack all season.

Ask any defender: From mid-September on, Michael Farfan was downright scary.

High point

Broken ankles, he caused a few. About the victory over Columbus that finally ended a two months without a celebration, Eli described the none-too-kind treatment Marfan doled out to a certain US international: “If you need proof of this, ask one Robbie Rogers, who is undoubtedly nursing a pair of sore ankles and a badly bruised ego following the rough treatment Marfan delivered over 90 minutes. Restored to his preferred side of the field, his overall comfort on the ball returned and his quick passing created time and space for the Union in the build.”

Torres delivered the memorable pass in the Columbus match, but nobody in the Crew midfield will forget Michael Farfan any time soon.

Low point

Any time he was played at outside back. Marfan did not adjust as well as his brother to the back line. And he shouldn’t have to. He’s just too good at being a midfielder.


On the ball skills, coolness under pressure, versatility. Nowak may value the versatility highest, but the ball skills bring a WOW factor that gets inside a defender’s head. The Union have never had a player like that before, although let me be the first to predict Levi Houapeu will do it if he ever gets on the field.


Farfan will work on positioning in the offseason. The Union often spoke of Justin Mapp as the outlet between offense and defense. With Mapp in Montreal, that is the role Marfan can make his own in 2012.


All-Star? He’s so versatile that he may spend time out of position in 2012, but he is the only midfielder the Union have on the roster that has proven himself as a wide player.

The Union have a stable of ultra-talented young players who have yet to take the next step to regular starter. Can Michael Farfan join Sheanon Williams in the first eleven every week?

Stat chart legend:
POS: Position; GP: Games Played; GS: Games Started; MINS: Minutes; PA: Passes Attempted; PC: Passes Completed; P%: Passing Accuracy Percentage; SHTS: Shots Faced; SV: Saves; GA: Goals Allowed; GAA: Goals Allowed Average; PKG/A: Penalty Goals/Attempted; W; Wins; L: Losses; T: Ties; ShO: Shutouts; W%: Win Percentage; SV%: Save Percentage; FC: Fouls Committed; FS: Fouls Suffered; YC: Yellow Cards; RC: Red Cards


  1. the man. when on the wing, he shows class rarely seen in MLS. that chip against real was just absurd.

  2. He is a very refined player with a huge bag of tricks. Gonna be one of the players to watch not just on the Union but in MLS as well.

  3. Speed is another issue for young Marfan. It’s not terrible, but his closing speed is just ok. Excited to see him develop though.

  4. welcom to sunlun lad

  5. yank kernts

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