How One Meaningless Goal Earned Michael Farfan a Free Pass From Union Fans

How One Meaningless Goal Earned Michael Farfan a Free Pass From Union Fans

It was beautiful. It inspired gasps. It appeared on highlight shows in Europe, where fans were exposed to the blue and gold of a team called "Philadelphia Union."

It was one goal in a meaningless friendly. And it has somehow earned Michael Farfan a nearly two-year free pass from Union fans.

[nbcsports_video src=http://www.youtube.com/embed/DkdEWb8WFrQ service=youtube width=590 height=332]

That YouTube video alone has been viewed 315,000 times -- and there are others (without the awesome Spanish "goal-azooooooo" call).

It was a friendly in July, 2011, when the Union hosted world powerhouse Real Madrid at Lincoln Financial Field. The Union lost the game, but did not embarrass themselves against star players who make more than their entire roster.

But now, nearly two years after that moment, it stands as a strange career milestone for the 24-year-old Farfan.

Ask any Union fan for their favorite moment in team history. Very few will mention the team's high-profile friendly matches. Matches that have included Real Madrid, Manchester United, Celtic and Everton. But ask any fan for their favorite Michael Farfan moment, and you'll hear, "Oh, that goal against Real Madrid. That was awesome!"

What has he done since?

This year, Farfan has zero goals and zero assists. He has 12 "shots" and five "shots on goal" (statistics that are dodgy, at best, all around when it comes to soccer). Yet he has started seven of the team's eight games.

Last year, Farfan had one goal and five assists in 32 games (31 starts). He made the All-Star Team, but as a late fill-in who was added to the roster mostly because the game took place at PPL Park and he didn't have to get on a plane to make the team's lone practice.

His best meaningful highlight was that one goal, and a beautiful assist -- to help the Union earn a surprising road win over LA Galaxy last July.

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My question is not, "What happened to Michael Farfan?" I don't have an answer to that. My question is, "Why isn't anyone asking that question?.

Freddy Adu had a band of haters that could fill PPL Park a few times over. First-round pick Zac MacMath has been openly questioned more than once. Hell, even the re-acquisition of Sebastian Le Toux inspired far more skepticism than I expected.

Through it all, whether Peter Nowak or John Hackworth was holding the pregame pen, "M. Farfan" has appeared in the Union's Starting XI. Why?

Through much of last year, I questioned why he didn't receive half the criticism of Adu. Adu's lofty salary in comparison was a frequent -- and valid -- excuse. But this year, I have often walked out of PPL Park and openly wondered if Farfan was on the field at all.

He was advertised as somewhat of a "playmaker," and is deployed as such in a lineup severely lacking in playmaking. He should have more assists than goals, but he should also have far more moments that make you take notice.

During an uneventful 10-minute span in the second half of last Saturday's game against Seattle, I focused all my attention on Farfan, whether he was near the ball or not.

Most of his time was spent watching from afar, occasionally moving to make himself available for a pass, before immediately looking to pass it again. Not once did he try to create a forward move, not once did he take on a defender one-on-one, and, more often than not, he passed the ball laterally or backward (sadly, he's not the worst offender in the negative-pass department, ::cough:: Brian Carroll).

After that game, Hackworth mentioned Farfan's minutes (in a roundabout way). This from Philly.com's Jonathan Tannenwald, on Gabriel Farfan, Michael's brother:

"He's competing right now with his brother [Michael] for playing time. When called upon today he did his job and he did it very well."

I don't necessarilly agree that Gabriel should be the one competing with Michael for minutes (that's another story), but the fact that Hackworth will at least mention that possibility that Michael won't be in the lineup might be enough to motivate the player.

Every game, one hour before kickoff, the Union's starting lineup is released. I see tweets and hear parking lot comments questioning this player or that one. Hell, the Danny Cruz hate alone could keep a Twitter feed full for hours (p.s., I was happy to inspire Danny's two-goal showing with my post last week).

But I have not once heard, "Ugh, why is Michael Farfan starting again?"

Maybe it's time to at least ask the question.

Phillies 2B prospect Valentin (shoulder) out; Kingery to stay at Double A for now

Phillies 2B prospect Valentin (shoulder) out; Kingery to stay at Double A for now

The Phillies' depth at second base has taken a hit.

Jesmuel Valentin, the starter at Triple A Lehigh Valley, is headed for surgery after dislocating his left shoulder. General manager Matt Klentak indicated that it was likely Valentin would miss the remainder of the season.

Valentin, 23, made a good showing in big-league spring training camp and, in fact, was the last position player cut from the 25-man roster. He had been off to a slow start at Lehigh Valley, hitting just .229 with a .573 OPS in his first 29 games.

With Valentin out, the Phillies could promote top second base prospect Scott Kingery from Double A to Triple A. While that is likely to happen at some point, nothing is imminent, Klentak said. The IronPigs will use veteran Pedro Florimon at second for the time being.

Kingery, 23, has been on a tear at Reading. He entered Monday leading the Eastern League in homers (13), extra-base hits (25) and slugging (.651). Overall, he was hitting .289 with a 1.018 OPS.

"Not imminent," Klentak said of a possible promotion for Kingery. "Very possible down the road. We've got more than enough infield coverage (at Triple A) to be fine and Kingery is good where he is."

Kingery, a 2015 draft pick, played just 37 games at the Double A level last season. He entered Monday having played in 37 games there this season.

Kingery on Monday was named the Eastern League player of the week for May 15-21. He went 9 for 30 with five homers, six RBIs, nine runs scored and an .833 OPS.

N.J. high school baseball player performs big-league worthy bat flip

N.J. high school baseball player performs big-league worthy bat flip

With all the bat flips going on in Major League Baseball by the likes of Odubel Herrera and Jose Bautista, it's a good bet that kids watching the game are taking notice.

Gloucester Catholic High School's Chris Turco has apparently seen the celebration.

In a game on Sunday, Turco launched the ball high above the wall in left field. However, he may have launched the bat even higher.

Look at this ridiculous bat flip.

According to Kevin Minnick of South Jersey Sports Digest, both of the next hitters were plunked and Turco's team lost.

Despite that, Turco is giving the pros a run for their money in the bat flip department.