By JOEY SAMUEL
When the Philadelphia Union signed Costa Rican defender Porfirio Lopez in the offseason, he was supposed to be the long-term answer for the team at left back. But with four games completed already, it's seeming more likely that Gabriel Farfan will regain the starting spot he possessed last season.
The natural midfielder, who started most of the second half of 2011 at left back for the Union, impressed in Saturday's 0-0 draw with Vancouver, and after the game coach Peter Nowak stressed that if Farfan kept playing like that, the job would be his. Nowak continued to praise Farfan in his weekly press conference to reporters on Wednesday.
“Gabe was very good on both sides of the ball,” Nowak said. “He likes the position. He likes to move forward. He likes to take a chance and be on the offensive side of the ball. It’s a good combination. We can switch at the half or we can look to give him more time over there. We’ll see where we are.”
With another week off before the Union face the Columbus Crew on April 14, there's still time for Lopez and Farfan to battle it out in training for the starting spot. Lopez, however, has been victimized quite a few times in his first four starts in Major League Soccer, and Farfan is nipping at his heels to regain the spot that was once his.
More notes about the Union are after the jump:
NOWAK DEFENDS LINEUP CHOICES
With only one point from four matches, it's clear that the Union have been struggling mightily to start the season as the club searches for a winning formula. But on Wednesday, Nowak rejected the notion that he has been shuffling the lineup drastically from week to week.
"As we said from the beginning, this is the tree and you have the branches," Nowak said. "It's not like I am just switching guys and messing up the whole idea of how we play, but we look at what pieces we can add that will change the dynamic without destroying the structure of the core."
Nowak stressed the need to give playing time to the young core of the Union, so that it can develop into a cohesive unit, and so that the team can know which young players are good enough to be on the field with the veterans.
“The term 'shuffling' is an overhaul of the lineup from week-to-week, and that’s different than what we’re doing,” Nowak said. “You try to find the way that will inject life and enthusiasm into the lineup instead of just knowing the first 11. That’s not the way we work and how we find out about these youngsters."
ADU SET FOR RETURN, VALDES STILL FINE
Carlos Valdes has taken knocks to his head in three of the team's four matches thus far, including one elbow from Vancouver's Atiba Harris that drew a one-game suspension for the Whitecaps' attacker. Nevertheless, Nowak said Valdes was still fit and that he would be fine for the Columbus game after the club's bye week.
Freddy Adu has also fully rejoined the team, after being given a few days off by Nowak after Olympic qualifying. Adu appeared in three matches over five days with the U.S. U-23 team and was held out of Saturday's draw with Vancouver but will be re-integrated when the club takes the field next.
The only real injury, Nowak said, was to rookie Krystian Witkowski, who suffered a concussion in training two weeks ago. Witkowski was signed by the Union in the offseason after being selected in the Supplemental Draft.