clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Tactics Talk: Would Michael Farfan in Freddy Adu’s Role Improve the Offense?

Getty Images

As I touched upon in an article on Saturday, Freddy Adu has not lived up to his role as a playmaking winger enough this year. A few games, specifically his pre-second yellow card play against the New York Red Bulls, have shown that he has the mindset and ability to properly adjust to the role he thrust himself into this offseason, but Adu has disappointed routinely out of a high spot in the Philadelphia Union's offense.

Interim head coach John Hackworth has consistently laid out an offense that tries to propel forward players and enable Adu to cut through defenders either with a pass or with a dribble, but the former American international has lacked the decision making to exploit the team's tactics.

One of Adu's teammates has performed well when given space on the outside, especially the right side of the field, but Adu has blocked his ability to move forward full time into such a role.

Michael Farfan was nominated for the Rookie of the Year award last season and ended up as a finalist due to his exemplary play as a right midfielder, and higher, tactically, as an advanced midfielder or winger.

This season, Farfan was gifted a role that allows him the freedom to move across the midfield and higher up into the farther parts of the Union's attacking forefront. After struggling at the beginning of the year with his transition from the outside to the advanced interior of the midfield, Farfan has finally found a solid medium between former head coach Peter Nowak's attempts to force the two-time All-American at the University of North Carolina into a no. 10 role and an offensive link between the midfield and the three forwards in the Union's hybrid 4-3-3.

Though hampered by a groin issue recently, Farfan has still managed to stay in-form and produce on the field. Adu, on the other hand, has played sub-par and has done little to give reason for fans to remain faithful in his potential to influence the game.

As Saturday's 2-0 loss to the Montreal Impact showed, opposing defenses have figured out how to handle the Union's offense. Part of its predictability has rested with Adu and his failures as the team's hybrid playmaker.

A solution to the team's problems and Adu's rather lackluster play may be a simple internal decision: a move of Farfan up to a wing position.

Farfan's main strengths have always played out differently on the field than Adu's own major attributes.

Adu attempts to dribble himself out of problem situations, but routinely has dribbled himself back into them. The most daunting part of Adu's game that must be fixed is his decision making when it comes to passing, which has found little form throughout season, staying slow and miscalculated other than the aforementioned Red Bulls game and a couple of others in 2012.

The 23-year-old has relied upon his dribbling skills, quickness and agility or taking advantage of tight, risky passing angles to overcome opposing defenses. He, unlike Adu, has excelled for most of this season and the past one at these things.

In his rookie season, in 2011, Farfan was given as much room on the outside as he cared to roam and rewarded Nowak with spectacular play that gave viewers of Union soccer the thought that at any moment that he touched the ball a moment of brilliance could occur.

That sort of feeling has left the Union this season, partially because of Farfan's tactical switch to a more central midfield role.

Gifting Farfan a higher tactical role could push the Union into a more creative offensive team, fusing together flair with a false nine's (an example: Cesc Febregas with Spain) runs. Right now, Lionard Pajoy shows off flashes of technical skill mixed with some head scratching moves and Jack McInerney makes the dangerous runs, but the overall picture still misses the proper mixture of player attributes to cohesively threaten the opposition on a regular basis.

More than anything else, the move would facilitate a change of pace for the Union, both tactically and literally on the field. Farfan outpaces Adu and his multidimensional style of play, however raw his talent his talent has remained despite going through the trials and tribulations of Major League Soccer level play.

When asked by other SB Nation soccer writers about who was the most underrated player on the team, I'm always inclined to quickly respond back with "Michael Farfan." He constantly has possed a threat to opposing defenses and rarely puts in an effort that leaves fans thinking that he did not put himself wholeheartedly into a game.

His abilities to weave in and out of the defense, combined with his propensity for running at defenders and drawing them in to open up the field for his teammates make Farfan a viable candidate on the wing. While not the prototypical winger due to his only above average pace, Farfan has deceptive speed and has utilized it very well whenever given the chance to run toward the endline.

In the very least, Farfan's inclusion up front instead of Adu would just throw, onto the field, something different than what's already been seen this season. Whether or not Hackworth and the Union front office believe the team has a chance at the playoffs, a forward thinking moving that has the potential to both aid Philadelphia in the short and long term should be embraced.

Though the Union scored 12 goals in Hackworth's first four games - 19 goals for and 14 goals against overall - as interim head coach, they've stagnated in recent games, scoring only four times in their last six games (including the 1-0 friendly loss to Aston Villa).

The only question that should surround a decision like this one would be concerning the player to take over for Farfan in the lineup. Philadelphia doesn't really have anyone truly suitable to directly replace Farfan, but it can chose from Roger Torres, Gabriel Gomez, Amobi Okugo (see an article on the Brotherly Game later today or tomorrow) or perhaps even try Gabriel Farfan - if a left back other than Porfirio Lopez is acquired - in an advanced role.

That problem can be more easily fixed that figuring out how to bring some playmaking consistency to the offense, making it important to consider it a secondary priority in this equation.

Any boost to the offense would benefit a push, once again, out of the cellar of the Eastern Conference should be undertaken. Taking into account Farfan's talent to get to the endline, his improvement on crosses and his smart decision making on the outside should make him a key candidate for a second revitalization of the attack this season.