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Posted by on Nov 26, 2012 in MLS, Philadelphia Union, Recent | 1 comment

Michael Farfan – El Machete

Michael Farfan – el Machete

Michael Farfan: when you look at the man, 5’9″ born in San Diego CA with an identical twin brother, he seems unassuming enough. We can even take a look at his numbers this season and take heart. In 32 matches Michael leads the Union in assists with 5, which speaks volumes about why the Unions season ended so poorly. he also leads the team in shots with 54 although his shots on goal percentage is only 27.8%. It still points to the fact that he puts himself in positions to live up to his role as creator. I prefer Farfan on the wing but he is certainly effective in the middle. He also leads the team in Yellow cards with 7 and a total foul count of 74.

Yes you read that correctly 74 fouls. In fact you can say that’s a league leading amount of fouls (the only category the Union can claim first place in this year), because it is.

So what makes this by all accounts “all around nice guy” the league leader in fouls you ask? The short answer is, circumstance. I would love to find another reason, I really would, I even tried and the fact is there are only a few reasons a guy his size and in his position would lead the league in fouls. So lets take at look at those:

Temperament

There are those who would say, (and to be honest I have often been one of them) that both of the Farfans show a bit too much enthusiasm for the more physical aspects of the game. Those people would have a fair point (even if I do risk looking foolish by agreeing with myself, but why stop now I am so often right). I will say only that this is mot entirely true and will delve more into this later.

The other side of the argument is very compelling as well however. It may be true that Michael has had his moments but he really couldn’t be called a dirty player by any definition. Michael (and even Gabe for that matter, I don’t really want to involve his brother in this but they have been together since birth and I am sure they are used to it by now) usually commit those fouls not for some personal vendetta or for the sheer enjoyment of “getting stuck in” but for the sake of the team. Most of Michael’s fouls involve one of two things: trying to keep the ball and trying to get it back. Now I know that sounded asinine because why else would you commit a foul on the field of play, but indulge me for a moment here.

Michael’s speed of both foot and vision are very quick and his close ball control is also very good. This leads him into the position where he very often is waiting for the play he is charged with making open up for him. His options are to play back or even sideways, or to attempt to move forward and hold the ball while things play out. If you look at Farfans game by game stats, he doesn’t play the ball square or back anywhere near as frequently as some of his teammates. So that would point to him holding or attempting to play through defenses. Its something he has done quite a bit and admittedly with mixed results. Playing through inevitably leaves him waiting in places where he is surrounded by defenders, and mostly center backs. Now being caught in a pack of opposing players containing center backs allows them to do what center backs do best, beat you senseless for as long as they can get away with it. Now that leaves you with a new set of options, fall and attempt to draw the foul (which will be addressed later), or attempt to give as good as you get and become all knees and elbows in an attempt to create something where nothing was before. Michael is not the flopping type, perhaps he should be slightly more than he is, but two players who have balance problems is enough for any team, so good on the lad for keeping his feet under him when they aren’t kicking back at an opponent. So while Michael has had lapses in composure, I wouldn’t say it was more often or more violent than what you could view as the median for the league, especially in his second year as a pro.

Mike has raised his game this year and he has the potential (how I loathe that word as both a Union and Arsenal admirer) to continue to grow as a player in the next few seasons as well. There is an explanation for his table topping antics (if you would even call them that, and I suppose I just did slightly unfairly and mostly for effect), and that’s the one part of his game that he is obviously deficient in….

The Dark Arts

Yes that most intangible of arts in the beautiful game, The Dark Arts. Michaels problem could be that he doesn’t foul more often than other players, it could be that he simply just isn’t very good at hiding it. This can be a problem with a “young” team. There really aren’t any grizzled vets to teach you the dark arts. Its one of those skills that are handed down from player to player on the training pitch. Furthermore its a skill that requires match practice, its obvious Michael has been practicing. Perhaps next season will see a dramatic drop in those numbers, unless of course the coach has instructed him to be…..

The Enforcer

Every team needs an enforcer. If indeed Michael has been given that role by this or previous coaches, it would of course be his job to foul the other team as often as possible. I am not sure this is the case and would question any coach who made his creator his enforcer as well. It has been done before, a previous coach of the Union is a decent example of someone who could fill both roles on the field. I am not sure that Mike is that guy though. An enforcer by nature of his job is going to collect both fouls and cards, therefore he will miss his fair share of games through suspension unless he is a master if the dark arts. You want your best creators on the field as often as possible and you would normally deploy an enforcer in a deeper role and with instructions to protect your creator. So this is a bit of a long shot but considering the amount of sketchy technical staff decisions at the Union, isnt beyond the realm of possibility.

So that leaves us where we began. Michael is the Unions best creative player on the field most days and, much like el Machete, is fighting with all his heart for a cause he believes in. It appears that he is so often left as the sole provider in an admittedly anemic attack that a combination of (relative) youth, frustration, and the quality that endears him most to the Philadelphia fan base – heart, leave him as a victim of circumstance, just like Machete.

Hasta la victoria siempre Michael “el Machete” Farfan.

1 Comment

  1. Wow, shocked that he actually has more fouls than Gabe! I guess Gabe’s, occurring more on the defensive end, are more noticeable since they often concede dangerous free kicks and even PKs. Still, I see both of them as assets, though I’d like to see M. Farfan on the wing so we can make use of Adu or Torres as CAM. Very useful players who unfortunately suffer from Shia LeBeouf Complex. I’d like to see them either foul less, or get smarter about it.