With Philadelphia Union shuffling defense, Gabriel Farfan gets opportunity for more playing time

CHESTER, Pa. – Through the first nine games of the season, Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth has started the same four players along the backline.

Because of an injury to starting center back Jeff Parke (left hamstring strain) and a red-card suspension to starting right back Sheanon Williams, that unit is going to look very different for Saturday’s game against the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park (1:30 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, LIVE chat on MLSsoccer.com).

But one of the players that will be plugged into the starting backline – Gabriel Farfan – has complete confidence in the makeshift unit that will likely include him at left back, Bakary Soumaré and Amobi Okugo at center back and Raymon Gaddis at right back

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“I think we have a bit of everything,” Farfan told MLSsoccer.com. “I think we have people that can attack. I think we have a big body in the back with Baky. We have composure on the ball. Everyone brings their little aspect to the table and I think it’s going to be a good combination.”

While Soumaré is set to make his season debut and just his second appearance ever with the Union, Farfan has plenty of experience in Philly. He was the starting left back for much of the last two seasons before being shifted back to his natural midfield position this year.

Because the Union have a crowded midfield, playing time has been difficult to come by for Farfan so far in 2013. But in this past Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Seattle, he showed his value and versatility when he was called off the bench to play a left back/left midfield hybrid following Parke’s first-half injury.

“I’m really happy for Gabe,” Hackworth said. “He continues to work hard. He’s a guy that I trust immensely on a personal and professional level. He’s a really good player. He’s competing right now with his brother [Michael] for playing time. But when called upon [Saturday], he did the job and he did it very well.”

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Farfan, who said he “loves helping out in the offensive third,” will likely play behind his brother on the left side of the field in Chicago and will look to connect with him in the attack.

And if he plays well, perhaps he’ll be able to work his way back into the rotation even after Williams and Parke return to the backline.

“That’s the way the game goes,” Farfan said of his reduced role this season. “That’s the decision the coaches make. Everyone’s just got to be professional about it and come into every training session and work hard and wait for the opportunity. And when you get it, you need to take advantage of it.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.