CHRISTOPHER MCCOLLUM - Wednesday, February 12, 2014
During the break between the Apertura and Clausura tournaments, Michael Farfan made the move from MLS's Philadelphia Union to Cruz Azul.
A month into the Clausura, Michael's twin brother Gabriel has also moved to Mexico, on loan to Chiapas. The move for Gabriel came after just half a season with Chivas USA, and while he was preparing for the pre-season. Gabriel was contacted by a friend in Mexico who informed him that Los Jaguares were interested in him.
"I was preparing to report to preseason with Chivas USA," Farfan told YA.
"A few days before preseason kicked off, I got a call from a friend in Mexico giving me the heads up that Chiapas was interested in me. Chiapas then contacted Chivas USA and worked out a deal for me to head down to Mexico."
Being from San Diego, Farfan was no stranger to Mexican soccer, catching games on TV and even trying to launch his pro career there after college. Despite making some inroads, things didn't work out and he returned to the United States, but the desire never left.
"I know quite a bit about the Mexican league. I've followed it since I was kid. Growing up in Southern California, Mexican league games were constantly being televised. My interest also grew when I came to play in Mexico after college. I was close to debuting in the league a few years ago but it never happened. It definitely gave me an itch to come back and fulfill that goal of mine."
Chiapas has been a consistent mid-table team over the past several years, neither climbing regularly into playoff contention, nor dropping enough to be considered a threat for relegation. The team is off to their standard start this tournament, but Gabriel is looking to mesh with some former teammates and help propel the team to heights they haven't reached since 2011.
"I've ... played with a couple guys on the team before which is pretty comforting. It's always a team's goal to make it to the liguilla. We need to keep finding a way to get results and hopefully we gain some momentum from it. If we take care of that, I don't see why we shouldn't be there at the end of the Clausura."
Moving to a new team often comes with a reflection on personal goals and milestones, what it will mean to be successful in a new environment, and what their goals along the way are. For Farfan, aside from the gratitude he feels to the Chiapas club, it's business as usual.
"I'm expecting a lot from myself. First and foremost I want to get to know my teammates on the field. I always have the mindset to earn a spot on the field. And when I get an opportunity, take advantage of it. I'd like to repay Chiapas FC for giving me this chance."
At any given time, upwards of half the starting lineup for the U.S. National Team can be based in Mexico. From DaMarcus Beasley to Herculez Gomez, Edgar Castillo to Joe Corona, Michael Orozco to Jose Torres, and then promising youngster Paul Arriola and recently-moved-to-MLS Benji Joya, the country is replete with National Team veterans and prospects, making it one of the top leagues to be watched by National Team scouts. None of this serves as a distraction for Farfan though, who only has his new club on his mind.
"I haven't thought about national team one bit. Of course that's another goal of mine but as of now my focus is solely on my performance for Chiapas FC."
When the Farfan twins were split up last season, with Philadelphia dealing Gabriel to Chivas USA in exchange for a first round draft pick and allocation money, there was a minor sentimental uproar in the spectator community, who liked the idea of the brothers staying on the same team. When Michael moved to Cruz Azul during the off-season, it seemed like the family favorites were now worlds apart. This move reunites them in the same league, but Gabriel is quick to point out that not much has changed.
"To be honest it's no different than playing on separate teams in the MLS. That being said, I'm very proud and glad he gets to experience the Mexican league as well."
Indeed, there may be little opportunity for the brothers to reunite during Gabriel's loan spell, as Chiapas and Cruz Azul have already played their one game of the season. If Gabriel impresses though, Chiapas could buy him outright, giving far more opportunity to enjoy his new country.