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Season review: Michael Farfan

Photo: Earl Gardner

Editor’s note: At the end of the first two Philadelphia Union seasons, we posted a series of end of the season reviews of every Union player. Over the next several weeks, PSP continues with a review of the 2012 season.

He was overlooked in the draft, but for the past two seasons MLS teams have paid close attention to Michael Farfan. There is no discernible ceiling for the young midfielder. And while he did not grab the spotlight in 2012 the way many expected, the turmoil surrounding his positioning and the offense around him may deflect some of the blame from the talent who should have been handed the playmaker mantle in March.

Instead, Marfan had to deal with an awkward reality: He is better at being Freddy Adu than Freddy Adu is. And while you, me, and everyone else with eyes and a mind knows it… nobody on the team can say it.

And so it was that Michael Farfan was placed in the central playmaking role to start the year. Playing the Tonto to Lio Pajoy’s Lone Ranger, Farfan proved the creative force behind a blunt and unwieldy instrument. Pajoy’s finishing is legendary for all the wrong reasons, and it is a credit to MLS (or, maybe, a nod toward the All-Star game host site) that Farfan made the All-Star team even though his statistics didn’t begin to reflect his on-field contributions until early July.

With all his skill on the ball, one might think he was a softer-type player, prone to going down easy when knocked off the ball mid-stepover. And one would be wrong.

The chip on Marfan’s shoulder is the same one that should be carried by all Union players. As a small team in a big player’s league, the Union have to play with an extra edge if they want to compete. Marfan has that edge. And while he has it almost every game, it’s clear that his battles with DC United’s Perry Kitchen are poised to become the stuff of legend when the two face off again and again over the next few seasons.

High Point

July 4th in Los Angeles. Michael Farfan already had an assist on a run that saw him drop off David Junior Lopes’ confidence in rehab when he gathered a Lionard Pajoy backheel, dinked into the penalty box, and curled a low shot into the far corner to steal three points on the road. More than just an individual highlight, it was exactly the sort of moment the team needed after seeing the momentum of a 4-0 win over KC stopped cold by an efficient (if lucky) Houston squad.

Low Point

There was no single low point to Marfan’s season. But the cloud under which he played—is this his offense, or is it Freddy’s? Can there be two focal points of a single offense on the field?—made what should have been a breakout season a breakout-in-sweats season. He was prone to conservative play when his ambitious through balls went unrewarded, even though the pass was less at fault than the finish.

In short, the low point for Farfan was that he didn’t get to play the starring role that seemed to have been written for him at the end of last season. There is no doubt, however, he will get another shot at it in 2013.


Soccer. He’s good with the ball, he works hard, and he does it with minimal support. Remember: Farfan is still learning the central position. He was an excellent college winger, but now he’s being asked to be less flash-n-motor and more brains-n-balance. It’s not an easy transition for any player.


Experience at the position. Unlike the best MLS playmakers, Farfan still wants to come back and get the ball. MLS is not a league that allows for that. Holding midfielders will follow you and pound you. What many MLS attackers have found is that you need to establish pockets on the pitch and make it so that your teammates know to look for you there all the time.

As Farfan develops and his team learns to look for him without hesitation, he can become special. For now, he is putting too much in and getting too little out.


Rosy isn’t really strong enough. He has the potential to be dominant. Few players in the league can step inside and play smart through balls, then step outside and beat any outside back like they were moving in slo-mo. There won’t be a way to stop Michael Farfan if he continues on his current path. What he needs is pieces around him that assure his continued development. And he needs to be coached on how to play his position and how to demand the ball when he wants it.

Is there a better offensive player on the Philadelphia Union? No.

Is there a player with more upside? Again, no (Sorry, Amobi).

But with so much raw talent, Farfan could peak at any number of levels. Whether he reaches the top one depends on how he is allowed to grow in 2013. There are big questions facing the young playmaker, but they are only big questions because they match his talent, promise, and work ethic.

No, rosy is not strong enough.

Stat chart legend:
POS: Position; GP: Games Played; GS: Games Started; MINS: Minutes; PA: Passes Attempted; PC: Passes Completed; P%: Passing Accuracy Percentage; G: Goals; A: Assists; SOG: Shots on Goal; SOG/S%: Percentage of Shots that are on Goal; G/SOG%: Percentage of Shots on Goal Converted; SC%: Scoring Percentage; G/90min: Goals per 90 minutes; Hm G: Home Goals; Rd G: Road Goals; FC: Fouls Committed; FS: Fouls Suffered; YC: Yellow Cards; RC: Red Cards


  1. James "4-3-3" Forever says:

    Well, one things for certain, Marfan won’t reach that ceiling as long as Adu is here.
    Or, at least as long as Adu is playing in the spot Marfan has shown better in.

  2. I translated this page in google translate

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