Kerith Gabriel: Farfan eager to contribute to Union wherever he plays

Union Michael Farfan leaps over Rhinos Jack traynor after play resumed. Philadelphia Union vs Rochester Rhinos at PPL Park on Tuesday, May 29, 2012. ( RON CORTES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ).
Union Michael Farfan leaps over Rhinos Jack traynor after play resumed. Philadelphia Union vs Rochester Rhinos at PPL Park on Tuesday, May 29, 2012. ( RON CORTES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ).
Posted: June 01, 2012

HE DOESN’T talk much, and what he does say isn’t always profound.

But Michael Farfan isn’t boring. In fact, quite the opposite.

Farfan goes about his work as the quiet, consummate professional, letting his play on the field talk more than his mouth postgame or after practice.

It’s for this reason, along with being one of the Union’s most versatile assets, that the second-round steal in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft has become arguably the Union’s best player.

But, for Farfan, if it doesn’t equate to wins on the pitch, he doesn’t want to discuss it.

"There isn’t much to say, really. I just think we need to start getting a rhythm and keep it going," Farfan said. "I think we just need to be a little more consistent and put in the work for 90 minutes."

Farfan can say that, because, this season, he’s worked for 90 minutes at a time at a variety of positions. He’s been an attacking midfielder, both in the middle and on the flanks. He’s played as an outside fullback opposite his twin brother, Gabriel. He’s started in 10 of 11 MLS matches this season and is one of the few players on this roster who willingly takes shots from distance (second on the Union with 19 shots taken).

"Much of what we do on attack goes through him, and we expect a lot from him," Union assistant coach John Hackworth said. "Michael sees the field very well and is able to beat defenders one on one. His versatility allows him to be effective at a variety of positions. He is definitely an asset for us, without question."

An asset who went overlooked, despite a senior season at North Carolina in which he was a college player of the year semifinalist and NSCAA first-team All-America. Farfan failed to impress at the MLS combine that year and fell to the Union at No. 23 in the second round of the SuperDraft. But while his statistics don’t show it (two goals, three assists all-time with the Union), he creates numerous chances on the field.

Now, it’s all about getting his teammates to finish it.

"As a team on the field, we have to stay together," Farfan said. "We know that we can do the job, but it’s a matter of showing up on the day [of the game]. We haven’t really done that consistently, and it’s a big reason for where we are right now. But I believe that we have the talent in this locker room to get it done."

Whether the Union can do what it must to salvage this season remains to be seen. Twenty-three league matches remain and, luckily for the Union (2-7-2), it plays in a conference in which the separation in points from top to bottom isn’t an ascent of Mount Everest. Changes and upgrades must be made and they could arrive during July’s summer transfer period. But currently, Farfan remains this squad’s biggest catalyst in both regaining form and reinvigorating the club and its supporters alike.

Regardless of where he might end up on the pitch.

"Either way is fine with me; I am very comfortable on the outside and on the inside as a center mid," Farfan said. "I think wherever [the technical staff] chooses to put me, I’ll be OK. I think just with time, it’ll come. I know fans are starting to panic because of what they see on the field, but we can’t be impatient and start taking crazy shots. But we do need to finish the shots from the chances that we do get. I think we are building as a team and that better days are coming."

Summer of soccer

Once again, Philadelphia is the epicenter of the American soccer landscape, as the Eagles announced Tuesday that Real Madrid will return to Lincoln Financial Field to host Scottish giant Celtic in the annual World Football Challenge on Aug. 11 at 1:30 p.m.

The game comes on the heels of UEFA Champions League winners Chelsea vs. MLS All-Stars at PPL Park on July 25.

"Philadelphia is a great market and deserves attention from the soccer community," Eagles chief operating officer Don Smolenski told the Daily News this week. "We take a lot of pride as an organization in facilitating these events."

Real Madrid will challenge AC Milan on July 18 at Yankee Stadium in another World Football Challenge match. It was rumored the two were set to play the Linc, but proposed dates weren’t suitable to Milan for a match here.

Odds and endlines

The European championships begin next Friday, and video gaming giant EA Sports has predicted Germany will win it all. Based on a simulation of the 16-team tournament held jointly in Poland and Ukraine, EA determined that when the dust settles, the Germans will have outlasted the others and will defeat the Netherlands, 2-1, in the final?...?Tuesday’s Open Cup loss for Rochester was a dream homecoming for local product Drew Cost, a midfielder for the Rhinos. Cost, who attended West Chester Henderson High School, spoke with elation on what it was like to have a chance to play so close to home: "It was an incredible opportunity and I was very excited to play here," Cost said. "I had a bunch of friends and family in the stands. I’ve watched a ton of games at PPL Park, but never envisioned having the chance to play here against the Union. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the result I would have hoped for, but it was still a memorable experience for me." n

Contact Kerith Gabriel at gabrielk@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @sprtswtr.

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