Union Notes: Farfan makes most of rare call

071213michaelfarfanusa.png

Union Notes: Farfan makes most of rare call

CHESTER, Pa. -- It’s extremely rare and even more controversial.

But as Michael Farfan lined up for a game-deciding indirect free kick on Friday night in the Union's 3-1 win over Chivas USA (see story), he knew exactly what he wanted to do.

“We knew they were going to have the whole team in the goal,” said Farfan, who was set up at the top of the opposition’s crease in the 82nd minute. “I figured the only place it could possibly go in was under the crossbar and above their heads. I set up to do that and fortunately it worked.”

Taking a soft touch from Sebastien Le Toux, Farfan, previously scoreless on the season, confidently fired off a right-footed roof shot that whipped under the crossbar and in the net. The charging Chivas defenders were helpless to prevent it.

“We saw where it was located,” Farfan said of the placement. “[Le Toux] knew where I wanted it and he put it there.”

The play was called as a result of an illegal back pass from Edgar Mejia to goalkeeper Dan Kennedy in the box. The broken play was argued by Chivas but referee Jorge Gonzalez could not be moved.

When asked about the last time he saw an indirect free kick, Union captain Brian Carroll had trouble remembering.

“It’s been a while,” Carroll said. “I think it happened once or twice in my professional career, but it happens a lot growing up. Credit to the guys for taking care of that opportunity. It’s not easy, though it may look close to the goal.

“You don’t practice it because it happens so infrequently. It’s playground ball stuff.”

Union coach John Hackworth was impressed with how confidently Farfan took the shot.

“These players are experienced enough that they’ve gone through it a number of times,” the coach said. “You have to get a touch on it and once you do that, pick your spot on frame. He decided to go over their heads. Michael was lining that up for two minutes. You could tell he was going there.”

Hackworth facing suspension
Before Gonzalez tossed Chivas’ Josue Soto with a red card and handed the Union the indirect free kick, he quietly ejected Hackworth in the 77th minute.

Though a red card wasn’t shown to Hackworth for dissent, the ejection counts as such. Barring MLS intervention, the call will leave the Union without a head coach for next Saturday’s match against the Portland Timbers at PPL Park.

“There’s a lot of things puzzling about the whole thing,” Hackworth said. “I don’t know why I was red-carded and thrown out of the game. I thought there was a clear handball that didn’t get called.”

Union assistant Rob Vartughian is expected to take his spot on the bench.

“I was upset because I thought there was a player,” Hackworth said. “I thought the player clearly takes his elbow and knocks the ball. That’s a handball in the box. I tell the fourth official, probably a little too emotional, that I thought it was a handball. I didn’t use profanity. Then Jorge came over and I go through the motion of how I thought the player made the handball and he threw me out.

“I haven’t been thrown out in a long time and usually you have to say something to get thrown out. I guess my actions were too much.”

Union trade up in 2nd round to draft Marcus Epps, also add Aaron Jones

uspresswire-union-epps-jones.jpg
USA Today Images

Union trade up in 2nd round to draft Marcus Epps, also add Aaron Jones

With no first-round picks in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft on Friday in Los Angeles, the Union were still able to add what they were looking for. 

“We got two players today that we want to be with the Philadelphia Union for a long time,” Union manager Jim Curtin said.

The club made a splash early in the second round by trading the 42nd overall pick, originally acquired by the Union, sending Zac MacMath to the Colorado Rapids, and $50,000 in 2018 General Allocation Money to the Minnesota United for the 25th overall pick. 

With that selection, the Union plucked Marcus Epps, an athletic right wing midfielder out of the University of South Florida. 

“We didn’t want to wait any longer,” Union sporting director Earnie Stewart said. “We were afraid Marc would go sooner, so we made sure we were ready to do a deal and creep up the board so we could get him.”

Epps admitted he didn’t know much about the Union. He wasn’t in attendance at the draft but was thrilled at hearing his name called over the MLS live stream.

“I’ve been on the phone with family and friends,” he said. “I was huddled around the laptop, streaming in and hoping to hear the good news. 

“I was definitely surprised and excited.”

Epps, listed by MLS at 5-foot-10, is 22 and a native of Jackson, Mississippi. According to both Stewart and Curtin, Epps is an adept one-on-one player and a skillful attacking winger that fits the Union’s style. He’s also right-footed and stated that he has experience on both the left and right wing in the midfield.

“He has speed, he has agility, he’s a big boy,” Stewart said. “The combination of those factors and the philosophy that we have at the Philadelphia Union, we believe we can develop this kid to be something very special. If you have the ability that he has on the ball and the speed that he has, that can create a lot of chaos in the opponent’s half. That’s something we look forward to developing in Marcus.” 

However, while Epps’ numbers at USF aren’t eye-popping, Stewart isn’t worried. The young player spent most of his senior season with an iliotibial band injury but scored eight goals and nine assists in 75 games over four seasons with USF. 

“We bring players in to develop them,” Stewart said. “If they had all the numbers in college or youth teams, they would have gone one or two. He has certain qualities that not every player has. Keegan Rosenberry (current Union right back) didn’t have the numbers other people had at the same time. I think we made a good choice with Keegan.” 

Even with their move up in the second round, the Union still possessed their original second-round pick — the 33rd overall selection. There, they added depth by drafting aggressive 5-foot-9 right back Aaron Jones out of Clemson. 

“I’m delighted to join the Union and excited at the direction that franchise is moving,” Jones said. “I’m extremely proud of what Keegan was able to do last year. It’s [what] I want to emulate in my career. I want to push him and try and play as many games as I can next year. Injuries happen in sports, so if the chance is given to me, I’m going to take it.”

Jones, who hails from Great Yarmouth in the U.K. and claims to be a set-piece specialist, transferred from Georgia State to Clemson for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Like Epps, Curtin, who noted Jones’ soccer IQ and tenacity, sees the right back fitting in nicely with the Union style.

“He really impressed us,” said Curtin, who noted that Jones will compete with Rosenberry and Ray Gaddis for playing time. “He’s a kid who will compete from Day 1. He wins his one-on-one battles defensively, he embraces the defensive part of the game and he’s a guy that wants to get better every day. He has a Union mentality and will be a guy our fans will be high on.

“He has an impressive skillset.”

The Union will take part in the third and fourth rounds of the 2017 draft on Jan. 17, in which the club owns the 55th, 77th and 82nd pick.

Union's 2017 schedule released, includes early challenges

Union's 2017 schedule released, includes early challenges

The Union’s 2017 MLS regular season schedule has been released. 

Like 2016, the start to the Union’s new campaign will be a test. After opening their season at BC Place against the Vancouver Whitecaps on March 5, the Union head home to Talen Energy Stadium on March 11 to host defending Eastern Conference champion Toronto FC in the home opener.

It’s the Union's only home game in their first four matches.

But that’s not the only concern. Following that difficult start, the Union face a five-game gauntlet between April 8 through May 6. Despite hosting four of those five games, the run begins against the Portland Timbers and ends with the New York Red Bulls. In between, the Union take on 2016 playoff sides New York City FC, Montreal Impact and challenge the LA Galaxy on the road.

That difficult stretch is potentially outdone only by a deep summer three-game road swing from July 6-22, in which the Union will visit Sporting Kansas City, the Impact and Columbus Crew.

When it comes to rivalries, the Union visit DC United twice — on April 1 and May 13 — but host the Red Bulls twice, on May 6 and June 18. The Union take on NYCFC only twice in 2017.

On the expansion front, the Union’s first match against a new MLS side happens on Aug. 26, when Atlanta United comes to town. One week later, the Union travel to TCF Bank Stadium to take on Minnesota United, and eventually make the trip to Mercedes-Benz Stadium to visit Atlanta on Sept. 26.

The Union will get to test themselves against the reigning MLS Cup champs, as the Seattle Sounders come to Talen Energy Stadium on Oct. 1. The match will be one of four on ESPN, with one match on FS1.