CHESTER, Pa. – Philadelphia Union fans are beginning to learn what Union players have known all along: Michael Farfan can turn a game on its head.
Thursday at PPL Park, the Philly rookie scored the game-winning goal, on top of a first-half assist, to lead the Union to a one of their most significant wins of the season – a 3-2 triumph over D.C. United in a game with enormous playoff implications.
Farfan, a second-round pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, has now started the past four games for the Union with impressive results to show for it, including a goal, two assists and a handful of jaw-dropping dribbling moves that have put the midfielder’s craftiness on full display.
“Mike is just sick,” Union fullback Sheanon Williams said. “He’s a great player. And every time we have him on the field, I’m excited. He can do pretty much everything.”
Farfan certainly has a wide array of ballhandling moves, as shown by the old YouTube video of him and his twin brother Gabriel putting on a juggling show. And as his confidence and playing time grows, he’s been showing some of those abilities in games, starting with his cheeky chip shot goal against Real Madrid in a July friendly.
Now, it seems, he’s been able to mix his craftiness with excellent vision to help the Union find the back of the net in these critical late-season games. In the first half against D.C. United, his perfect across-the-field pass set up Sébastien Le Toux for the Frenchman’s second goal of the game, and the rookie followed that up by beating a defender, running into space and firing a rocket for the game-winner in the 57th minute.
“He’s an electrifying player,” said Union midfielder Brian Carroll. “Sometimes you see guys pull off tricks and it’s not really effective. But I think his tricks are. He’s very skillful and it’s great to see.”
Farfan, who didn’t see much action early in the season, has also been used at defense this season, often interchanging with his brother at left back. On Thursday, he was put back there for a few minutes and ended up getting burned by Andy Najar for D.C.’s game-tying goal in the first half.
When he returned to the midfield shortly after that, he was focused on redemption – which promptly came.
“Obviously, you don’t like to make mistakes like that in the back,” Farfan said. “I was trying my hardest to help the team as I hurt them.”
Farfan later admitted he’s far more comfortable in the midfield, which should be apparent by all the moves he’s been making in the attacking third.
His teammates seem to like him in that spot, too.
“You see the more tricks he does, his confidence grows,” Union teammate Amobi Okugo said. “He helped us get three points tonight.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.