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How Marco Farfan will be an upgrade for FC Dallas

While trading Ryan Hollingshead was heartbreaking for fans, Marco Farfan could be a big defensive upgrade for FC Dallas.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at FC Dallas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, FC Dallas acquired Marco Farfan in a trade with LAFC for Ryan Hollingshead. This was an important trade for FC Dallas, as Hollingshead has played over 2,000 minutes in the last two seasons. However, I believe that FC Dallas are not just getting a young and promising player in Farfan, but a player who is already prepared to contribute with his passing and defending.

Farfan started out his career with Portland Timbers II, in the USL Championship (the 2nd tier of US Soccer). He progressed very quickly to the first team (making his debut in 2017) but bounced around the next two seasons between the first and second team, before finally maintaining some sort of consistency with the first team in the 2020 season. During this season, Farfan saw success also on the national level, as debuted for the USMNT in a 6-0 win against El Salvador in a friendly.

However, Farfan was traded in the offseason to LAFC, where he was deployed as a defensive-minded left-back and racked up nearly 2,000 minutes. With that said, in this article, I will attempt to compare Farfan and Hollingshead using statistics from the 2021 MLS season. If you are interested, I used statistics covering fullbacks in the 2021 MLS season who played at least 750 minutes (this amounted to 101 players).

Defense

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Los Angeles FC Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout last season, Farfan was a much better defender than Hollingshead as:

  • He ranked 9th in defensive duals per 90, attempting around 12.3, and also ranked 17th in defensive duels won, completing nearly 67% of his duals
  • Even though Farfan attempted a lot of defensive duals each game, he was still able to maintain a high success rate, a great sign for a young player
  • Not only was Farfan good at attempting defensive duals, he also excelled at intercepting the ball, ranking 14th in interceptions per 90, averaging around 5.45

Hollingshead was slightly above average defensively as:

  • He ranked 40th in defensive duals per 90 (~7) and just 64th in defensive dual percentage, succeeding in around 60% of his duals
  • In terms of intercepting the ball, Hollingshead ranked pretty close to his defensive dual ranking (54th)
  • Lastly, even though Farfan attempted far more defensive duals than Hollingshead, he still committed less fouls (.80 per 90 to Hollingshead’s 1.22 per 90) and remained above average for the league again
  • This is another great sign to see from a young defender, who typically tend to commit large amounts of fouls because they are not adjusted to the professional game yet

Passing

Hollingshead and Farfan were both poor at attempting crosses last season as they were firmly below average (78th and 82nd in the league). However, Hollingshead completed nearly 47% of his crosses, which ranked him 6th in the league, which indicates why he is hailed as one of the best attacking LB’s in the league.

  • On the other hand, Farfan completed merely ~14.8% of his crosses, indicating that he has practically no crossing ability at all, at least right now
  • As you can see, there is a massive difference between the two in this category, so hopefully Farfan can improve and produce better crosses in the future for FC Dallas
  • While his crossing ability was low last season, Farfan was a pretty accurate passer overall, as he retained a higher completion percentage than Hollingshead in multiple key areas:
  • For his overall passing, Farfan completed a large ~85% of his passes, ranking him 21st while Hollingshead completed a solid ~82% of his passes, ranking him 47th
  • Another important skill in soccer is progressing the ball forward, and while Hollingshead (57th) attempts slightly more progressive passes than Farfan (68th), Farfan completes more of them, as he ranked 30th in the league with a completion rate of ~76.7% and Hollingshead ranked slightly below average (68th), completing ~71.5% of his progressive passes.

As you will see throughout the comparison of Hollingshead’s and Farfan’s passing statistics, a pattern definitely exists as Hollingshead attempts slightly more passes in most areas than Farfan, however, Farfan is more precise and accurate with his passing. This precision is a great sign to see from a player who is just 23 years old.

  • Similar to the last two passing statistics but different in the type of passing required, Farfan completed over 81% of his passes to the final third last season, which ranked him 8th in the league. Hollingshead, however, completed 67% of his passes to the final third, which ranked him 61st, providing a large gap between the two
  • Hollingshead again attempted slightly more passes into the final third (~5.1 per 90) to rank him 38th compared to ~4.8 from Farfan to rank him 49th in the league
  • However, these statistics display that Farfan is a strong passer of the ball in many scenarios which require different skill sets
  • However, one scenario where Farfan needs to work on his passing is into the penalty area:
  • Hollingshead again attempts more passes to the area than Farfan, as he ranked 67th while Farfan ranked 78th in the league
  • However, because of his terrible crossing, Farfan ranked 81st and completed only ~36% of his passes to the penalty area, while Hollingshead ranked 40th and completed ~47.5% of his passes to the penalty area.
  • Farfan clearly does not have the ability to pass into the penalty area or produce that final ball at the moment, so this will be something he needs to improve on at FC Dallas
  • Additionally, both players were about equal in terms of their long passing ability, as they both ranked below-average among fullbacks in MLS, with Farfan producing a slightly higher output and percentage of the two

Dribbling/Skilling

MLS: Los Angeles FC at LA Galaxy Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Hollingshead and Farfan were both pretty similar overall with their dribbling ability and getting forward in general as:

  • Both were above average at attempted dribbles, with Hollingshead attempting a slightly higher output of 2.5 per 90 as compared to Farfan’s 2.1 per 90
  • Similarly, Hollingshead and Farfan were literally dead even in dribble percentage, with both completing 50% of their dribbles, which ranked them in the bottom half of the league (73rd and 77th)
  • Farfan and Hollingshead were also very close to each other in their offensive duals per 90 with both averaging around 4.7 per 90, ranking them marginally above average
  • However, Hollingshead was more effective with his offensive duals as he completed 43% of his duals, while Farfan completed just ~35.6%.
  • Like their dribbling percentages, both of these guys were below average in the league as Hollingshead finished in 73rd and Farfan finished nearly last in offensive dual percentage
  • Similar to their dribbling ability, both men got forward a decent amount last season, as Hollingshead ranked in the top 30 in touches in the penalty area and Farfan ranked 46th (about average)

While these guys were pretty close in their ability to dribble and attempt forward runs, Hollingshead was much better at progressing the ball through his dribbling, as he ranked 6th in the league, with ~2.7 progressive runs per 90.

Farfan was about average in this category (54th), with ~1.4 progressive runs per 90.

Summary

Overall, although FC Dallas will miss the veteran leadership of Hollingshead along with his attacking/dribbling output and his ability to accurately cross and produce that final ball, I think FC Dallas are acquiring a young player who has the skills to help the first team with his all-around passing game (apart from that final ball) and his strong defensive output last season.

Furthermore, with the addition of Nanu on loan, a right back who is a prolific dribbler and loves to get forward, the attack from FC Dallas might not take that big of a hit this season. I think acquiring a defensive-minded left back like Farfan also takes some of the pressure off the center-backs because Nanu typically gets so far forward in the attack and draws himself out of position.

Putting that move into context and Hollingshead’s expiring deal, I think this trade actually fits in nicely with this FC Dallas team and I’m looking forward to seeing the potential Nanu/Farfan partnership at the fullback positions in the future.