GUADALAJARA, Mexico – By his own admission, Michael Farfan did not get anywhere near the playing time he would have liked for Cruz Azul in the 2014 Liga MX Clausura.
The 25-year-old former Philadelphia Union midfielder arrived in Mexico in December and featured mainly for La Máquina's U-20 side as he fought to establish himself at one of Mexico’s “big four” clubs. But less than six months into his three-year contract, Farfan is not giving up hope and has his sights on making an impact next season.
“It’s not always easy coming from a different league, and sometimes it takes a little bit to settle in,” Farfan told MLSsoccer.com this week on the phone from his native Southern California, "but this season has helped me a lot to mature as a player, and I hope to bring my style of play and show I deserve to be there."
The move south took Farfan by surprise. He was vacationing after the 2013 MLS season when the call came that Cruz Azul were interested in signing him.
Like twin brother Gabriel Farfan, who spent the past Liga MX Clausura with Chiapas on loan from Chivas USA, dual Mexico and United States passport holder Michael had always harbored an ambition to play in Mexico – which stemmed from his upbringing not far from the border in San Diego – and jumped at the opportunity.
“We grew up in an area with a lot of Hispanics, so when we were kicking the ball around in a scrimmage, it was always, ‘I want to be América, I want to be Cruz Azul,’” explained Farfan. “It was definitely good to be part of that passion and to be able to get on the field and debut.”
Playing time in the first team may have been in short supply for Farfan, but when he did debut for the last 12 minutes of Cruz Azul’s Liga MX match against Pachuca on April 12, he certainly made an impact. Farfan came on at 2-0 down and scored the equalizer in injury time.
“I wanted to come in and prove that I deserved to be out there,” he said. “I went out and played well and was able to get the goal, so I was able to strengthen my case to get minutes.”
The reception Farfan, Jose Villarreal and Rafael Baca – who all moved from MLS at the same time - got from his Cruz Azul teammates was entirely positive, Farfan said, with players asking about MLS, different US cities and life north of the border.
Aside from the human qualities, the on-field talent of the squad at the Mexico City club impressed Farfan, who believes it was the depth at the club that helped them finish first in the Liga MX regular season and lift the CONCACAF Champions League title, sweeping away Sporting Kansas City in the semifinals.
“You have quality players in every position and one or two players who are some of the best guys in the league,” said Farfan. “I think it’s a great opportunity for me to be among those guys and kind of learn, taking all their experience and knowledge.”
The Champions League was a priority from the start of the Clausura season for Cruz Azul, as was winning the league title, something which has eluded La Máquina since 1997 and did so once again, as Cruz Azul crashed out against León in the quarterfinals of the playoffs.
“We set high goals,” he said. “It’s such a big team with history, so they expect nothing less than the best.”
Farfan still keeps an eye on his former club in Philadelphia and is adamant that with better finishing, the team would be higher than the seventh place it currently occupies in the Eastern Conference.
“We have a great coach in John Hackworth, and hopefully they can turn it around and start getting results, because they are playing well,” opined Farfan. “The only part missing is the finishing touch. You have to score goals if you want to win games.”
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.