Versatility comes double with Union's Farfan brothers

CHESTER, Pa. — Philadelphia Union rookie Gabriel Farfan was getting loose in the locker room during the second half of Saturday’s game against the Chicago Fire when he heard a thunderous PPL Park celebration. Not paying close attention to the television, he asked someone who scored.

“They told me Michael,” Farfan told MLSsoccer.com, “and I thought they were joking with me.”

But it was no joke: Gabriel’s twin brother, Michael Farfan, had just scored his first career MLS goal to put Philly up 1-0 in an eventual 2-1 victory.

The memorable moment came in the 64th minute when Michael one-timed a pass from Kyle Nakazawa toward goal — a low, booming shot that deflected past Chicago ’keeper Jon Conway and into the back of the net.

“We’ve been practicing that in training,” Michael Farfan told MLSsoccer.com following the game. “We’re trying to get more shots off just to get more goals. We’re always trying to shoot more.

“To get my first professional career goal, it was just an awesome experience,” he added. “I’m excited to get it under my belt and see what happens from here.”

If Saturday’s game proved anything, it’s that Farfan will have a vital role with the club through all different parts on the field — but that he also needs to improve in certain areas.

In addition to scoring his first goal, Farfan played three different positions — right midfield, center midfield and left fullback. It was in his defensive role where the rookie was burned by Chicago striker Dominic Oduro, who netted the game-tying goal Saturday.

“He’s a skilled player,” Farfan said of Oduro. “He’s very speedy. You turn around one second and he’s gonna get by you.”

Farfan was pushed to left fullback when Union manager Peter Nowak substituted out Jordan Harvey, who had picked up a yellow card. Earlier in the game, Farfan switched from the right side of the midfield to a central role when Amobi Okugo left with an ankle sprain and Kyle Nakazawa came on.

Farfan, a 2011 second-round SuperDraft pick out of the University of North Carolina, never played defense before coming to Philly, but brings an attacking style Nowak likes to the back line.

“I think Mike is a guy that always recognizes when there’s a chance to go forward,” Nowak said. “But his defense is very good. I don’t think it will create any kind of confusion where we can use him.”

Gabriel Farfan, who came on as a late sub Saturday to help preserve Philly’s win, has also shown versatility this season, playing both in the midfield and on the backline. And as the season progresses, the twin brothers continue to show more and more what kind of depth and talent they add to the club.

“I think we’re both pretty versatile players,” Gabriel Farfan said. “It’s every coach’s dream having players who can play several different positions. It’s a good quality to have.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.