CHESTER, Pa. – The Philadelphia Union will be without one of their best players on Thursday when they take the field opposite D.C. United at PPL Park (8 pm ET, ESPN2; LIVE chat on MLSsoccer.com), as Michael Farfan is suspended due to yellow-card accumulation.
Who will replace Philly’s dynamic central attacking midfielder?
During his weekly press conference on Wednesday, Union manager John Hackworth didn’t give away any secrets. Instead, he did a little bit of playful misdirection.
“Greg Jordan is going to start in place of Michael Farfan tomorrow, Ben Olsen,” Hackworth said, referring to the rookie defender who’s yet to make his league debut. “Just kidding. Greg’s been great, by the way.
“In all seriousness,” the manager added, “we have a lot of players right there behind Michael who we would love to see give us the production Michael has given us. So this becomes a fantastic opportunity for those guys. It’s been a good battle the last couple of days to win that spot.”
With a deep midfield, Hackworth certainly has some choices. One could involve changing the formation from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2, moving Freddy Adu from the wing to a central role and pairing Jack McInerney up top with a more traditional striker. Hackworth mentioned there would be a “little bit of a twist” in terms of putting out more attacking players to give McInerney support, but he also noted that Adu took a knock this past Saturday in Toronto and may not be 100 percent.
Another option could be starting Roger Torres as the central attacking midfielder. The third-year Colombian hasn’t seen nearly as many minutes this season as he did in 2010 and 2011, thanks both to injury and Farfan’s form, but Hackworth was pleased with the lift he gave the Union off the bench in Toronto.
“Roger is certainly one of the players we hope can fill that void,” Hackworth said.
Still, the Union manager acknowledged that the popular 21-year-year old, who started the first seven games in franchise history, needs to do more to regain a more prominent role on the club.
“For Torres, he’s a young guy that still has to be consistent at both sides of it,” Hackworth said. “It’s not that we want Roger to defend all the time because we don’t. But he has to help out and his reactions have to be immediate. That’s still something he really needs to work on. Also, he still needs to prove to everybody that he’s a 90-minute player.”
Whether it’s Torres, Adu or someone else, the Union will certainly miss the offensive production of Farfan, who leads the club in assists, shots and shots on goal.
“Obviously the playmaking he does is fantastic,” Hackworth said. “We have to replace that tomorrow night and we have to make some tactical changes in order to do so. But it’s also an opportunity for guys to really step up. And I hope that happens.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.