Sometimes transferring to a new club is necessary for a player to develop. After beginning his career with the Portland Timbers, Marco Farfan has made two moves in the past two years. Both have brought increased success and set him on an upward trajectory. This season, the 23-year-old FC Dallas fullback has impressed observers, taking full advantage of his new surroundings.
Born in Portland, Oregon, Farfan joined the Portland Timbers academy in 2013, initially playing as a midfielder. While being named to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Western Conference Best XI, he was promoted to the club’s reserves in 2016. The defender made 18 appearances in the USL Championship, “shining at left back” and demonstrating “the uncanny ability to know when to get forward.” As one of the team’s minutes leaders, the league named him to the “20 Under 20” list as a “top young talent.”
“I feel like I adjusted pretty quickly,” said Farfan. “Speed of play, smarter players - it’s a lot harder to play at this level than at the academy. It’s a pretty big jump, so you just have to be careful in how you play… There [are] some players that I’ve had to play against who are pretty pacey. I’ve had to adjust to that. I needed help from the team.”
The teenager was signed to a Major League Soccer contract in 2017, as the club touted his “quality and hard work.” Farfan enjoyed a solid debut, with four starts in the first seven matches, all while still attending high school. Managers praised his athleticism and technical ability, as well as his maturity to adjust to the professional game. However, by the end of the season, he was back with the reserves.
Over the next three years, Farfan was a rotational member of the first team. Most of his playing time was spent at the reserve level. He dealt with multiple injuries and worked hard to improve his fitness, which included losing “10-15 pounds of fat.” The defender finally became a regular at the end of 2020, making consistent appearances at right and left back, standing out for his pressure on opponents.
Despite his apparent breakthrough, Portland traded him to Los Angeles FC, reportedly due to an expiring contract and desire to “find a new challenge.” He hit the ground running, “picking up ideas” and neutralizing opposing attackers while also filling in at center back. Farfan had a strong 2021 season, making 29 appearances at a variety of back line positions, playing mostly as a safety option who would stay out of the final third.
During the winter transfer market, Farfan was once again traded, this time to FC Dallas. “When I found out at first, it was kind of stressful because it just happened out of nowhere,” he told the club’s official website. “There weren’t any rumors. I didn’t hear any rumors. But as soon as I got here, I was very excited.”
There were signs that Farfan would succeed with Dallas, as his passing “precision” and defensive statistics were obscured by an underperforming LAFC side that missed the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs. The 23-year-old has started every league match this season for the Hoops, demonstrating the talent and consistency that first marked him as a top prospect. He appears to have settled into his new environment and should continue to develop as the year progresses.
At the international level, Farfan is eligible for Mexico and the United States. He has appeared with the latter program, beginning with the U-19 level. His senior debut came in December of 2020, playing 45 minutes in the 6-0 friendly win over El Salvador. In 2018, Mariano Trujillo reported that the defender “had received his Mexican passport” and was “interested in switching” to El Tri, but the dual-national most recently accepted a call-up to Jason Kreis’ Olympic Qualifying training camp last year.
Farfan is, at times, an “elite” defensive-minded fullback capable of playing on both sides of the formation, with impressive pressure, tackling, interception, shot blocking, and aerial duel statistics. He completes a decent number of passes but could contribute more in the attack considering the modern expectations of his role. Currently, his playing style is conservative, serving as a stable option which allows teammates to push into the final third, although Dallas is pushing him to become more of a threat when dribbling forward.
Touch, turn, shoot.— FC Dallas :) (@FCDallas) April 10, 2022
Jesús takes the lead. pic.twitter.com/SGMpHlEfef
“I think he integrated very quickly to the team and the idea of how we want to play offensively and defensively,” said FC Dallas manager Nico Estévez. “I think defensively he’s given us a lot of stability in the box and he’s helping the center backs to be a little bit more brave when you have to challenge a ball in the air. He’s covering crosses well also. Offensively, I think every game he’s getting more confident to go higher on the pitch in providing us different ways to attack.”
Farfan is an interesting player on the outskirts of the national team picture, with the fullback depth chart as deep as it has ever been. While his game still requires some improvements, the continued development is intriguing. Over the next four-to-five years, he could grow into a useful player, with the recent transfer to Dallas having taken him further down that road.