- - Thursday, April 30, 2015

Michael Farfan speaks with tranquil diction that echoes his on-the-field persona. Calm and efficient.

An offseason acquisition, Farfan adds another wrinkle to D.C. United. For a team already boasting speed on the flanks and imagination up top, the soft-spoken midfielder has offered on-the-ball composure.

He remains an unassuming personality in United’s locker room. But Farfan’s contributions on game day are beginning to speak volumes.

“He gives us pause, and possessions add up when he’s in there,” coach Ben Olsen said. “We’ve got a lot of good pieces around him, and when he can connect passes under tight circumstances it helps us. It helps us as a group, and it helps us defend less.”

After kicking off the MLS campaign with a trio of appearances off the bench, Farfan has started three consecutive matches heading into Saturday’s contest between United (4-1-2) and the Columbus Crew (3-2-2) at RFK Stadium.

This has been Farfan’s first stretch of consistent playing time since the fall of 2013, when the University of North Carolina product was wrapping his third season with the Philadelphia Union.

Late that year, Farfan made the move to decorated Mexican club Cruz Azul. But he logged just one match for the team in 2014 — scoring a late equalizer — before terminating his contract this past December.

While Farfan’s time abroad didn’t pan out from a playing-time perspective, the San Diego native relished the opportunity to soak in Liga MX, where his twin brother Gabriel still plays for Chiapas.

“I had talks with the coach and I knew I was on the outside looking in, so I wanted to weigh my options and see what else was out there,” Farfan said of his exit. “It was nice to be able to get a sense for a different league and different culture, and I don’t regret any piece of Mexico. I really enjoyed it and I learned I lot, but now it’s time to move on.”

After mulling opportunities in Scandinavia, Farfan re-signed with MLS in February and was selected by United via the league’s allocation order. It wasn’t the first time Olsen had shown an interest in Farfan: As all-star coach in 2012, he used one of his roster selections on the midfielder.

Although Farfan has mostly played on the wing for United, he started in his preferred central midfield role for last weekend’s 2-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps. The 26-year-old helped set the tempo with quick touches and smart combination play, and picked up his first United assist on Bobby Boswell’s ninth-minute header.

“He brings a calmness in the midfield,” veteran Chris Pontius said. “He’s always an option, he’s always an outlet, and I think his vision is pretty spectacular.”

Added Farfan: “It’s been nice getting out on the field with these guys. Every practice I feel like I’m getting more comfortable with them and learning their tendencies.”

For a player whose game is all about rhythm, consistent minutes alongside his new teammates have been vital. And Farfan continues to build bonds off the field. An avid outdoorsman, he’s discussed potential hiking ventures with teammate Chris Rolfe. Some fishing trips with Boswell might be in the cards as well.

Going forward, it remains to be seen if his role with United will be as a starter or reserve. Perry Kitchen and Davy Arnaud have been the preferred duo in central midfield when healthy, while offseason signing Markus Halsti is an option there as he returns from a knee injury.

The flanks also are crowded, with versatile attackers Pontius and Rolfe increasingly likely to play out wide following forward Fabian Espindola’s return from suspension. Add Farfan’s emergence to the equation, and Olsen has a welcome dilemma on his hands.

“We’ve tried to build him slowly, giving him some minutes here and there, and now he’s competing for a starting spot every weekend,” Olsen said. “That’s what we need here, and that’s what we’re trying to build — where no one is truly comfortable in their spot and we’re pushing each other in a healthy way.”

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