WAYNE, Pa. – While the 2012 season has been a largely disappointing one for the Philadelphia Union, there have been a few promising developments.
One of them has been the play of Michael Farfan, who’s quietly emerged as the team’s No. 1 playmaker and driving force in the center of the midfield.
“I always believed he had the ability to be a playmaker in this league for a long time,” Union manager John Hackworth told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s great that he’s actually doing it.”
Hackworth may have known all along that Farfan could be an elite MLS player. But the 24-year-old midfielder himself admitted that he’s a bit surprised to have taken on such a prominent role in just his second year in the league.
“I kind of hoped for it all the time, but I think the coaches have given me confidence and put me somewhere where I feel very confident,” Farfan said.
That spot is as a center attacking midfielder, where the 2011 Rookie of the Year finalist has been able to use his smooth and creative dribbling abilities to help Philly control possession and create scoring chances.
Farfan currently leads the team in assists (four), shots (46) and shots on goal (13), while playing more minutes (2,082) than anyone on the team except captain Carlos Valdés and veteran Brian Carroll. His numbers would probably be better, too, if the Union were finishing more of their chances, which has been their Achilles’ heel all season.
“I like Michael when he finds spots, whether from the center or wide,” Hackworth said. “When he does that, he’s really dangerous. He’s unpredictable. And that’s when he truly plays his best.”
Farfan, who’s played as a fullback and an outside midfielder for the Union during his two years in the league, said he’s fine playing anywhere in the field.
But he certainly prefers the spot he’s in now.
“You get to be all over the field,” he said of playing center midfield. “You get to be a part of defenders passing out of the back. You get to be a part of playing it to the forwards. You get to go forward, as well as defend. I think it’s a little bit of everything. I just like being involved as much as possible.”
That’s what his coaches like, too.
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.