When you heard 'the Portland Timbers signed a homegrown player' today your first thought might not have been Marco Farfan.
Farfan was heavily involved in the first half of the season, but went quiet once school started up at the end of August just as fellow academy prospect Blake Bodily started to grab the attention of Timbers fans. Nonetheless, Farfan made quite the impression with his time on T2 in 2016. As such, the front office have now signed him as a homegrown player.
This isn't the Timbers' first homegrown player signing: both Brent Richards and Steven Evans came first. This is still HUGE, however, because Farfan is the Timbers' first homegrown player developed out of the academy program. The Timbers entered Major League Soccer in 2011 without a development program in place. But, in 2013 they finally created a true academy program and have been developing both the program and players ever since.
Marco Farfan is one of those players. Born in the Rose City, Farfan joined the academy system when it first began in 2013. He got a bench appearance or two in 2015 with T2 but it wasn't until T2's first match of the season that he made his debut. He started and played 63 minutes in the season opener against Swope Park Rangers. After that he played in 17 more games, starting in every game he played, for a total of 1,463 minutes in 18 matches in 2016. The only highlights so far are from his academy time in 2015, but check them out anyway!
Things started off pretty rough for him, his debut was less than stellar but you can't fault the kid -- he was super nervous about making his debut. Still, one of his best qualities was getting up to speed and quickly learning from his mistakes. He made improvements in game two, and by the time games three and four were played, Farfan had really begun to dig in and shine at left back. It is really his consistency and ability to improve that sets him apart from other academy products that are beginning to make a name for themselves. Additionally, Farfan has an uncanny ability to know when to get forward, having confidence that he can get back to defend if needed. Caleb Porter is not known to trust youth and provide minutes. So Farfan will likely be on loan to T2 next season again. But this time as a loaned down homegrown player instead of an academy product.
Farfan earned a few awards and call ups in 2016 based on his performance with T2. The Development Academy had Marco Farfan in their U17/18 Western Conference Best XI. And if that wasn't enough, USL & Top Drawer Soccer placed Marco Farfan at number 7 on their first ever 20 under 20 list, beating out some strong competition, including Vancouver's fifteen year old soccer prodigy, Alphonso Davies. Yes, that same Davies, who at only 15 years old, got himself a first team contract with the Whitecaps and scored a game winning goal in Champions League to see his side reach the 2017 knockout rounds. Farfan was the only academy product to make the 20 under 20 list. But he wasn't done there. Brad Friedel called him, as well as fellow Timbers academy product Jacob Montes, to the US U-19 training camp roster that finished up earlier this week.
With tons of potential, hopefully Farfan is able to make more of an impact than the previous two homegrown signings. He is the first signing pulled from the Academy Program and he has started to get some interest from the national team programs. And now that he is officially a professional player, he should get a lot more minutes on loan to T2 next season.
So, all the best to Marco and we look forward to all he can achieve with the Portland Timbers!