Photo: Paul Rudderow
We won’t be seeing Gabriel Farfan for a while.
Major League Soccer suspended the Philadelphia Union player a total of three games and fined him an undisclosed amount of money for a tackle on Chivas USA defender James Riley last Saturday, the league announced Friday afternoon. Farfan earned a red card last Saturday when he went studs up with the two-footed tackle on Riley, who walked away with a halved shin guard for his troubles. The league’s announcement said the fine was levied not just for the challenge but also Farfan’s “failing to leave the field in an orderly manner.”
Farfan will miss Saturday’s game against San Jose, the May 5 game against Seattle, and a May 13 home match against New York.
The California native appeared to have avoided any extra suspension beyond the standard, automatic one-gamer, particularly after Union manager Peter Nowak’s suspension for entering the field of play during the altercation that Farfan’s tackle instigated was announced Thursday without mention of Farfan. But apparently, not so.
Commentary: Did the punishment fit the crime?
Right off the bat, the question has to be asked:
How does Farfan get a three-game suspension when Rafa Marquez only got three games for intentionally tackling San Jose midfielder Shea Salinas to the ground American football style, kicking him across his upper chest on the follow-through, and breaking his collarbone in the process?
But that doesn’t mean the Farfan suspension wasn’t appropriate. It just means Marquez deserved far more than the three games he got.
As much fun as Farfan is to watch play, he had this coming for a while now. Even if you argue he deserved only two games out, his pattern of on-field behavior probably earned him a third game. Yes, he’s a talented ballhandler with great vision, but he’s also a hard-nosed defender who’s gotten away with some very rough and reckless fouls in the past, such as the flying knee to Danny Cruz last autumn that somehow didn’t draw a red card. Sooner or later, Farfan was bound to get nailed. When you go in with a studs-up, two-footed tackle, that’s going to be when it happens.
It doesn’t matter what kind of gamesmanship, salesmanship, or jersey-tugging is being carried out by the opposing team. It doesn’t matter that Chivas midfielder Miller Bolaños dove after slight contact with Farfan just seconds before the two-footed tackle on Riley. Likewise, it doesn’t matter that Farfan got to the ball before Riley or that Riley got back onto the field just fine after rolling around for a bit like he was shot after the contact.
You just don’t go in with a tackle like that and expect to get away with it.
The shame is that Farfan is playing the best soccer of his professional career. He’s earned the left back job beyond a shadow of a doubt — and not merely by virtue of Porfirio Lopez’s poor play. At times, he’s been the best Union player on the field, and while his future may lie in midfield, he’s doing a terrific job at left back. On top of that, he’s just fun to watch.
Unfortunately, that starting job wasn’t the only thing he earned. He earned this suspension too.