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LAFC 2021 Player Postmortem: Marco Farfan

Defense-minded defender divided opinion in Los Angeles.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Los Angeles FC Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Marco Farfan arrived at LAFC for the 2021 season as a bit of an anomaly. The only homegrown player from the Portland Timbers to play any real minutes for the first team, he was still mostly buried on the depth chart with the Timbers perpetually chasing fullbacks out of Latin America, many of whom were no better than the local product.

Anyway, even if Farfan hadn’t nailed down a regular spot in Portland’s lineup, I thought he was a savvy pickup given the context. Plus, with Diego Palacios likely to be called up by Ecuador, Farfan would likely be good depth at left back, a problem position for nearly every soccer team.

He did net career highs for minutes played in a season with the black-and-gold, but it seemed a good chunk of the LAFC fanbase turned on him immediately. I must admit I’m not entirely sure why that was the case.

Here are Farfan’s stats in 2021:

Marco Farfan 2021 LAFC Statistics

2021 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2021 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
MLS 29 21 1,754 0 0 6 0 2 0

Now, if you look at the advanced stats on FBref.com, Farfan was pretty clearly deployed as a “stay at home” left back, as he barely even registered in attacking categories. In contrast to Palacios, who bombs pretty liberally up and down the field, with Kim Moon-hwan playing major minutes on the right side of defense with an attack-minded game, Farfan stayed back, something Bob Bradley had done with his fullbacks frequently throughout his LAFC tenure.

But again, look at the advanced stats in defense, and...Farfan was elite. Aside from merely being above average in clearances, he was stellar compared to other fullbacks in MLS.

I’m not going to say that his game was flawless according to the eye test. There were a couple of occasions where he lost his man, who then went on to score, and those mistakes tend to linger in the mind. I suspect that’s where he drew the ire of a portion of the fanbase.

But I think as a change-of-pace, defensive-minded left back, he’s solid, or even better than just solid. Is he at Palacios’ level? No, but Bradley also benched Palacios at one point in the season as a message. Farfan evidently showed up, put in the work and got playing time. He wasn’t perfect, but please show me a perfect defender, and the underlying numbers in defense were stellar.

If you’re someone who’s written off Farfan, please reconsider. Maybe he won’t develop further in 2022 under Steve Cherundolo, but maybe the “eye test” will better match his advanced stats. One of my everlasting complaints of the Bradley era was how stressed the defense was, even when things weren’t going well. Things didn’t go well for the defense throughout 2021, and Farfan still had a strong season statistically. That shouldn’t be ignored.

So we’ll see what Farfan’s role will be in 2022 and beyond. He’s a solid MLS player. Can he be more? That remains to be seen, but it may not be as far off as you might have thought.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.