CHESTER, Pa. – It looks like there’s a battle brewing to be the Philadelphia Union’s starting left fullback.
So far this season, Costa Rican international Porfirio López has started every game at the position. But in this past Saturday’s scoreless draw against Vancouver, Gabriel Farfan took over in the second half and played well enough for Union manager Peter Nowak to say after that game that Farfan can make a claim on the starting spot.
Nowak did not back down from those statements in his weekly press conference Wednesday, praising Farfan’s ability to push forward from the backline.
“Gabe was very good on both sides of the ball,” Nowak said. “He likes the position. He likes to move forward. He likes to take a chance and be on the offensive side of the ball. It’s a good combination. We can switch at the half or we can look to give him more time over there. We’ll see where we are.”
During the second half of last season, Farfan filled in at left back after the Union traded away Jordan Harvey even though he’d mostly played in the midfield before coming to MLS. Despite it not being his natural position, Farfan held up well on the Philly backline, and has continued to do so in limited time his season.
Interestingly enough, the Union signed López in the offseason in part to move Farfan back to the midfield. But López has looked a little shaky at times during his first few games in the league, which leaves the door open for a switch in the starting XI.
“Kudos to Gabe,” Philly right back Sheanon Williams. “I think he’s one of our more versatile players. It’s great to have players on the team like that. It’s just a tribute to Gabe and what a good player he is.”
Farfan showed off his versatility in Saturday’s scoreless draw with Vancouver, playing in the midfield in the first half before switching to defense after the halftime break. Naturally, there were tactical adjustments that went along with the switch, but for him nothing else changed.
“It’s the same mentality,” Farfan said. “You’ve got to give it your all. Obviously the position is different but it’s something you have to deal with. There are going to be changes made in games. It’s just something that comes along with playing.”
And while he’s said in the past he feels more comfortable in the midfield, it’s gotten to the point now where Farfan will gladly play anywhere on the pitch.
“I think I’m a versatile player,” he said. “Wherever you get a chance to step on the field, you do that for your teammates and your coaching staff.
“It’s the same to me. As long as I’m helping the team in some kind of way, it’s fine.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org