As one of the only remaining creative playmakers left on the roster, Michael Farfan was initially part of the Philadelphia Union’s plans in 2014.
But after Cruz Azul came calling, and Farfan became eager at the chance to play in Mexico, the Union decided to part ways with him, officially completing the permanent transfer with the Liga MX side earlier this week.
It was not an easy move to make for Union manager John Hackworth, who felt similarly torn about trading Gabriel Farfan to Chivas USA in May. Hackworth has known the Farfan twins since they were teenagers and coached them both in the US Under-17 residency program.
“Michael and I are pretty close,” Hackworth told MLSsoccer.com. “This was hard for me because I didn’t want to give up Michael. But the financial situation that was offered to us, plus the fact that this was something Michael was definitely excited about it, made this an opportunity that worked out for both of us.”
Hackworth noted that Cruz Azul approached the Union recently and that it only took a couple of weeks to get the deal ironed out. It wasn’t until later that Hackworth realized that the Mexican club was simultaneously working to acquire the LA Galaxy’s Jose Villareal and the San Jose Earthquakes’ Rafael Baca.
But looking back on it, the Union manager understands Cruz Azul’s desire to acquire the three MLS players with Mexican roots.
“It makes sense,” Hackworth said. “If you’re looking for players around the world, MLS is an extremely attractive market. When you look at how much you have to pay players, this is as cheap as they come on the football market worldwide.”
While Farfan probably has the talent to thrive in the Liga MX, there’s no denying his production slipped last season. After being named a Rookie of the Year finalist in 2011 and earning a spot on the MLS All-Star team in 2012 (albeit as a late addition because the game was held at PPL Park), Farfan managed just one goal and one assist in 2013 as he bounced around the midfield and in and out of the starting lineup.
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Hackworth, though, had nothing but good things to say about the 25-year-old midfielder.
“I think the hardest part were people’s expectations,” the Union manager said. “I don’t think Michael regressed at all. It’s very natural in a developmental process where you get to a certain level and people have expectations – and sometimes those expectations are higher than what they should be. With Michael, I think he’s still a year or two away from being the top player he can be.”
If and when Farfan does realize his true potential, it won’t be in Philly. And the Union will now try to acquire at least one more attacking midfielder with a similar creative skill set – something Hackworth says they’ve been working on throughout the offseason.
“We’ll miss him on our team, but it’s our job to go out and find a replacement for Michael,” Hackworth said. “Because of the transfer, we’ll have a little bit of resources to do that.
“We’re hopeful our hard work is going to pay off sooner rather than later.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.