Photo: Nicolae Stoian
Does anyone ever really pay much attention draft picks after the first round? Maybe in the NFL where there is real depth from a wealth of college talent and combine hype. But in the MLS SuperDraft? Does anyone after the first dozen or so selections really matter?
Apparently they do.
Michael Farfan, or Marfan as he has been dubbed by fans, came to the Union as the 23rd pick in the 2011 SuperDraft. At that point, no one really knew much about him. When Goal.com gave the Union a grade of “C” for their draft, they said of Marfan that he was “too similar” to Kyle Nakazawa and that the team had other issues to address. Here at PSP, our own Adam Cann’s draft review was more favorable to Marfan, highlighting his ability to offer width to the attack and add that extra bit of creativity that was needed from the midfield.
No offense to Nakazawa, but while we saw a lot of him early in the year, he was really no where to be found in the second half of the season. Marfan was given only a few chances early in the season, but he made the most of his starts. It may not always be about how you start, but rather, how you finish.
In Marfan’s case, he found himself as an unused substitute just as many times as he found himself starting (13 times each). In Marfan’s first three starts, he registered his first goal (against Chicago) and tallied his first assist (against Salt Lake). Despite such production, he continued to feature mostly as a substitute, having only one start between June 11 and September 3. After that it was another story: eight of his 13 starts were consecutive starts at the end of the season. Whether it was because of other players’ injuries, immigration issues, or form, Marfan had solidified himself as a main fixture in the midfield.
Most Union fan’s have seen enough of Marfan to know that he needs to be in the starting XI. Most would also agree he needs to have some freedom with the ball moving down the field. Plain and simple, this dude has moves. As was said more than once, just ask Robbie Rogers how his ankles were feeling when he had to keep up with Marfan down the sidelines. Sebastian Le Toux may have taken the name “Le Touch,” but Marfan’s touch resulted in one of the best placed crosses of the season in the home playoff game against Houston—there’s bound to be more of that to come in the future.
Speaking of touch, anyone remember that Real Madrid game? It may have been a friendly, and yes, several substitutes had entered the game. But who cares? In front of 57,000 people, most of them wearing brand new Real Madrid jerseys, Marfan took the ball across the middle of the pitch, approaching the penalty area to see the keeper off of his line. Most players in such a situation are probably looking to pass to an attacking teammate or to try to power a shot past the keeper (like Marfan himself would later do against DC United). What does Marfan do? He gracefully chips the ball over the keeper’s head and into the net. It was not the sort of goal you’d expect to see from a guy who is fresh out of college playing against one of the best teams in the world. It’s not the sort of goal you’d expect from many veteran players. But calm, cool, and collected it was and it showed that the 23rd player taken in the 2011 SuperDraft might just raise a few eyebrows.
That’s exactly what he did. Marfan is a downhill runner, with exceptional technique and field vision to add to that, and he fills the Union’s real need for a natural winger. He’s also versatile, filling in defensively when called upon to do so. It was not for nothing that he was in the running for Rookie of the Year honors. Sure, there is room for improvement and he knows that more than anyone.
It was a great season for Marfan. It will be exciting to see going forward just how much Marfan improves his game and to see the continuity that he builds with other creative players like Roger Torres. And I know that, after this season, I will be paying more attention to the 2012 SuperDraft. You never know how many Michael Farfan’s may be out there to surprise you.