Back in the driver's seat: Philadelphia Union turn to forgotten man Michael Farfan

CHESTER, Pa. – For most, if not all, of 2012, Michael Farfan was the Philadelphia Union’s top playmaker.

Now it's time for him to reclaim that role.

With the Union possibly missing several key midfielders for Saturday’s game against FC Dallas (5:30 pm ET, NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com), Philly manager John Hackworth will likely hand the keys to the attack to Farfan, who has seen his production fall off after an All-Star 2012 season.

“I think everyone has the expectation,” Hackworth said, “that Michael is ready to have a breakout game.”

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Farfan will certainly need to be at his best for the Union to survive the next few games without Keon Daniel, who’s left to join the Trinidad & Tobago national team for the Gold Cup. Kleberson (right quad strain) and Danny Cruz (lower leg contusion) are also injured and questionable for Saturday’s contest, if not longer. 

That means that Farfan, who has been shuffled around the midfield this season, is poised to feature as the team’s string-pulling central attacking midfielder – at least until Kleberson returns to full health or Daniel returns from international duty.

“This is a really big opportunity for Michael Farfan to come back to a more natural position for him,” Hackworth said. “He played fantastic I thought on Sunday [against the New York Red Bulls], especially in a tough spot coming into a game [for the injured Cruz] with a lot of energy and a lot of emotion.”

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Farfan understands these next few weeks are going to be important for him. He also recognizes that his performance this season, in which he’s only recorded one assist, hasn’t been as good as last year, when he had five assists as well as one of the team’s prettiest goals.

That’s something he’d like to change.

“It’s been up and down,” Farfan admitted. “I’ve had a couple of good games. I’ve had a couple of bad games. I think I was more consistent last year as opposed to this year.”

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So what changed?

“I don’t think anything’s changed with Michael,” Hackworth said. “I think our team has gotten better. I think we relied on Michael a lot last year and clearly he had a very good year. He was named an All-Star. That got him a lot of attention and I think teams also started to key on him a little more. This year we’ve moved Michael around because he’s versatile. We’ve put Keon in the middle of the field more often because that's where Keon has played better.

“From my point of view, Michael is exactly the same player as he was last year. He’s a really important player.”

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