CHESTER, Pa. — When Jordan Harvey was dealt for allocation money in early July, rookie Gabriel Farfan was viewed as a temporary solution at left back for the Philadelphia Union, with manager Peter Nowak saying that “in the long run, we’re going to look to get better" in that position.
A month later, one could reasonably ask, how much better can they get?
Since being plugged into the starting lineup on July 9, Farfan has been hawkish around the ball. A dynamic threat along the flank and virtually mistake-free, he immediately helped the Union to a pair of league shutouts and another one in an exhibition against EPL outfit Everton FC. The Philly defense have stumbled a bit in their last two games — giving up a pair of goals in back-to-back contests vs. Real Madrid and the Colorado Rapids — but Farfan wasn’t on the hook for any of those tallies.
“I feel a lot more comfortable than when I first started out,” said Farfan, a natural midfielder. “Game by game, I’m just getting more comfortable.”
While Farfan says that he’s played “every position you can imagine,” he also admitted that this is the longest stretch he’s ever been at outside back. Helping him learn the position, the rookie noted, have been the Union’s veteran center backs, Danny Califf and Carlos Valdés.
“Everyone helps each other out,” Farfan said. “It’s one of the good things about my team. [They teach me] positioning, the things to look for when I’m stuck in trouble, [and] the things to be aware of on the field.”
One of the main reasons why Farfan has fit in so well with starters Califf, Valdés and right back Sheanon Williams is because, like all of them, he knows how to push forward, often in dangerous fashion.
“My main responsibility is defense, but I like to provide an attacking outlet in the back,” he said.
While the Union will likely bring in another defender before the international transfer window closes on August 14, Farfan will almost certainly remain in the starting XI until that time comes. With Williams serving a one-game suspension, he may even be joined on the backline by his twin brother, Michael, for Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park (9 pm ET, watch LIVE here).
Interestingly enough, the versatile Farfan brothers were both slotted at fullback when they made their MLS debuts back in May.
“If Mike steps in, I’m sure he’ll do a great job,” Gabriel added. “Several guys can do the job at outside back, but it will be nice if he gets the call so we can play on the same field.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.