Don’t be fooled by Michael Farfan’s demeanor.
He’s one of the nicest players on the Philadelphia Union, but when he steps between the lines, he’s all business.
Farfan is as competitive as any player on the club. He’ll do anything possible to help the club and he plays a physical brand of football.
“I’ve been on both sides and playing against Michael is tough because he’s such a competitor and he’s so tough on the ball and off the ball,” said forward Sebastien Le Toux. “He'll go right after you. I think he’s one of the most improved players in the league and I’m excited to see him on the field this season. I think the sky’s the limit for him.”
The No. 23 overall pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft from the University of North Carolina finished third in Rookie of the Year voting that year.
Last season, he scored one goal and added five assists en route to an appearance on the MLS All-Star Team.
That’s quite an ascension.
“It was a great experience being with the All-Stars because it was something I’ll never forget,” Farfan said after a recent training session. “I don’t think I would have gotten there without my teammates because we worked together every day as a team. I think I got better every day. Having a good bit of the core players back is important, and with the changes we made, I’m just excited to get the season going.
“Let’s see where the season takes us. I think we’re happy with where we’re going with this group.”
This group is quite large for now as the technical staff looks to slice the roster as First Kick approaches on March 2 against Sporting Kansas City.
Having that type of competition in training would be nerve-racking to many players. Not Farfan.
“I think it’s great because you can’t take a minute off,” Farfan said. “You have to fight and scratch for everything and that’s what the coaches tell us all the time. It’s how I play and it fits my style having such a competitive camp.
“I think that creates a good environment for the team, and it will benefit us in the long run this season. If you’re being pushed in training, it’s going to make you a better player when the games come around.”
Farfan is at his best as a playmaker in the midfield. That’s exactly what team manager John Hackworth is looking for from his third-year player.
“Coach and I talked and he told me what he expects and a lot of that is to be active and aggressive in my spot on the field,” Farfan said. “I told him that’s exactly the way I want to play. I’m a physical player and an aggressive player. I play as hard as I can all the time and I’ve always been that way. I think you have to control your aggressiveness and not make dangerous plays.
“I like a physical, attacking style because that’s always been my style.”
After a frustrating season in which the Union failed to make the MLS Cup Playoffs, Farfan is hoping for a return trip in 2013. He realizes that goal is way down the road.
“It starts now in training and continues right up to First Kick,” Farfan said. “We have a lot of work to do and a lot of new faces. I’m excited about the season and getting it all started.”
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at email@example.com