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Season Review: Gabriel Farfan

Photo: Paul Rudderow

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.

One of my best friends from college is an identical twin. Once, for his brother’s and his birthday, his parents gave his brother a subscription to the New Yorker. What did my friend get? Nothing—his parents forgot about his birthday, even though they remembered his brother’s.

I can’t say whether Gabriel and Michael Farfan have ever experienced something similar, and I don’t know enough about their college careers to say much, but as professionals, Michael has always been the more lauded, the more loudly acclaimed, and the flashier twin.

On the one hand, that’s a shame, as Gabe has nearly as much skill and flair as his brother, and the fact that he’s been relegated to the back line from his preferred midfield berth has stopped him from showing it off as frequently as all of us would like. On the other hand, I wonder if flying a little bit under the radar doesn’t suit Gabe just fine.

High Point

Outside backs tend not to collect highlight reel material, though in the relatively narrow attacking system the Union employs, the fullbacks are often called upon to jump-start the offense, playing more as wingbacks than sit-and-defend types. Sheanon Williams and Raymon Gaddis get more attention for their work on the right flank, as their blistering speed makes them difficult for any player to handle, but Farfan is the more polished offensive player, being a converted midfielder. Farfan did have one assist this season, in the 3–0 away win over Toronto, but this ridiculous sequence against Montreal, wherein Farfan completely bamboozled Davy Arnaud and put in a shot on goal, shows just how potent Farfan can be when he’s a little bit further upfield.

Low Point

How about starting the season on the bench behind Porfirio Lopez? Okay, you can hardly blame that on Farfan—that was all Peter Nowak. Still, the implication of that personnel move is clear—Farfan is not a defender by trade, and he’s still learning how to do it. Farfan had few errors leading to goals, but let’s call his low point the two-game stretch against Toronto and New England, where a “pouty, argumentative” Farfan did not play his best.


Farfan’s strengths are primarily twofold: his on-ball skill, and his fiery combativeness. When harnessed together, they make for a formidable opponent. Wingers and forwards do not like playing against Gabriel Farfan. Davy Arnaud’s ankles sure don’t. Heck, I’m not sure anybody does.


As noted above, Farfan’s defensive sense is still a work in progress. He’s come a long way already, but he’s still learning about proper positioning. Also, Farfan’s spikiness is occasionally a liability, giving up unnecessary fouls and yellow cards. He needs to learn how to walk the line between playing physical and playing dirty.


Farfan’s outlook is very positive. Right now, he is by far the best left back on the Union roster, and should be an automatic selection there. If Hackworth decides to bring in a specialist left back during the offseason, then Farfan will likely join the fight to nail down a starting spot in midfield. Others have said it before, and it’s true: a midfield trio of Amobi Okugo and the Farfan brothers is a tempting proposition. The only thing working against him in that formulation is his lack of height. That said, much will depend on whether Freddy Adu is still on the team and has the right attitude, and what formation the Union play next season.

Whatever happens, I believe Gabriel Farfan should be in the first eleven. He’s simply too talented, too committed, and has too much potential to improve to leave him out. I don’t know whether he should remain as a fullback or not, but he definitely needs to play.

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:

    Others have said it before, and it’s true: a midfield trio of Amobi Okugo and the Farfan brothers is a tempting proposition.
    Yes it is!

  2. Dear Philadelphia Union Powers That Be,

    All I want for the holidays is this dreamy formation:

    Cooper —– McInerney


    Garfan Marfan


    Cochrane Williams

    Soumare Valdes


    • I’ll bite. Who’s Cochrane?

      • Greg Cochrane is a left sided back/midfielder from Louisville with great speed, good distribution and he can hit a hell of a cross. Think Ray Gaddis, but on the other side of the formation. He’s from Bucks County and played under Brendan Burke at Reading United this past summer, even spending some time training with the Union. Made a cameo at the STH open training session in late June. He knows the system the Union play and he is highly rated among the right people in the organization. If he’s available in the second round of the SuperDraft, I can’t really see the Union passing on him.

      • Okay, you’ve convinced me.

    • Did I miss some announcement that said cooper is up for sale, because I can’t imagine why NY would give him up!!

      • Yeah, word is they’re shopping Cooper, particularly after trading today for Espindola from RSL.

    • Minor Tweak says:

      I think a better lineup would be

      Cooper —– McInerney

      Empty Space

      Garfan Marfan


      Cochrane Williams

      Soumare Valdes


  3. I like gabe at left back. Its a hard position to fill especially in the MLS right now. If we had a great LB than he may be great at L mid but we dont and i am not sure its worth the money right now to find one. the real question here is how do we get the ball in the back of the net and I am positive that we dont have what we need there so the search is for that not a new LB.

  4. I agree with the reservation stated in the article- at times Garfan loses perspective and thinks that he is on the fighting line, rather than playing left back on a soccer field. I always appreciate physical play, and a refusal to back down in the face of tough challenges. But chippy for the sake of chippy doesn’t help the team. I cannot imagine how Gabe thinks that his game by game value is increased with a perpetual worry that he will be facing a suspension with his next card. Dial it back just a notch, and he is an incredibly valuable player.

  5. I think Garfan’s low point was taking the red card to put the Union two men down against Chivas. That could have very easily cost two or three points.

  6. DarthLos117 says:

    Best place for Gabe is on the bench. He has plateau’d and doesnt show same potential as others (Okugo, his brother). Get us a real LB.

    • Couldn’t agree with you less on your first point, but you might be right about hitting a plateau. It’s time for him to move to midfield. He’s nasty with the ball at his feet on the attack.

  7. A “specialist left back?” I know what you mean, but isn’t it a bit of a shame that you have to invent that phrase? If you were covering most professional teams, “left back” would suffice. [Sigh]

  8. thank you for sharing such a great information, you really did a great job

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