Back when D.C. United acquired Michael Farfan, it seemed like a perfectly sensible move. Farfan could play on either flank or in the middle, had MLS experience, was still young-ish, and wouldn't cost a lot of money. It seemed safe to expect him to compete for a starting role on one flank or the other. Even if he wasn't going to push ahead of Nick DeLeon, Chris Rolfe, or Chris Pontius, it looked certain he'd be appearing in just about every game as one of Ben Olsen's first subs.
That held up as true at first: Across United's first 12 league matches and their 2 CONCACAF Champions League games, Farfan started 6 games and subbed into 7 more. However, a major hamstring strain suffered while trying to make a lunging tackle against the New England Revolution on May 23rd appears to have been an unfortunate turning point. Hamstring strains are usually a 4-5 week long injury; Farfan didn't appear again until August 13th, subbing in for the final 25 minutes of a 3-1 loss to NYCFC (a span of time that saw him miss 15 United games across all competitions).
United played 16 games from there, and Farfan's role was diminished. He started 4 times and subbed into 6 more, and was not even on the bench for 2 of United's 3 playoff games due to a groin issue that was not listed on the team injury report. This last chunk of the season included 4 CCL games (in which Farfan started 3 times and subbed in once, and was arguably United's key player in winning Group H), as well as a bizarre start against the San Jose Earthquakes in which he was billed as a second forward only to clearly play between the lines in a 4411 that didn't really work.
There were times where Farfan appeared to be a player United was not using often enough. As a site, we've talked about United's 2-1 win in Vancouver more than any other single game this season. The reason is simple: Olsen played a 4132 against a talented team that has plenty of attacking weapons, and he used Farfan in the center of that midfield trio. In defensive phases, Rolfe dropped in alongside Farfan (who stepped up a couple of yards ahead of the wide midfielders) to give DCU a triangle in midfield to match the Whitecaps' 4231. It was a tactically innovative move for a coach often accused of lacking ideas or ambition.
Sadly, we never saw that set-up again in MLS. Farfan had his moments - particularly in dissecting Montego Bay United in the CCL - but the attacking player that pushed his way into the starting lineup late in the season ended up being Pontius. It's not controversial to say that, even without the groin injury, Farfan probably wasn't getting October starts.
On the other hand, you can argue that Farfan never really made enough of a tangible impact to justify more minutes. In 660 MLS minutes, he produced 0 goals and 1 assist. Per WhoScored, 9 different players produced more successful dribbles per 90 minutes played - including players like Alvaro Saborio, who has never exactly been known for skinning defenders - and his key passes per 90 (0.4) were roughly what Perry Kitchen and Conor Doyle produced. Defensively, he fared better: Only Doyle and Rolfe made more successful tackles per 90 among forwards and wide midfielders.
That's not really what his role was in this team, though, and perhaps we at B&RU have been a bit too surprised that United has apparently made a decision to move on without him. However, you know the drill by now. We're here to see what you guys think: