U.S. soccer players strive to play in Europe for a chance to be recognized on the world stage. Sometimes, players don't have to stray too far to find out what it's like to play against Europe's best.
Union midfielder Michael Farfan experienced this in 2011 when Spanish club Real Madrid made its way to Lincoln Financial Field in the World Football Challenge.
With Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka on Madrid, Farfan still netted a goal in that one. The Union lost the game, 2-1, but he showed the world what he could do.
"It was very exciting, especially to play against so many great players," said Farfan. "To be able to score was icing on the cake. It's amazing to be on the same field as them and to be able to examine their play in a game situation. Overall, it was just a great experience."
Last season, Farfan was added as a sub to the MLS All-Star team. The match, which was David Beckham's last MLS All-Star Game, was against Chelsea at PPL Park. Farfan's name was called to replace Beckham in a 3-2 MLS victory.
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"I didn't get a chance to talk to him as he went off, but the stadium was so loud in that moment," said Farfan. "I did get a chance to talk to him before the game, though, and he's a great guy."
Farfan has been a key contributor for the Union in the past month as several Union players, including midfielder Keon Daniel, are helping Team USA in the Gold Cup. The Union are also on track for a playoff spot in a tight Eastern Conference.
"Everyone's definitely stepping up their game right now," Daniel said. "You can tell in the standings that everyone's really close to each other, so everyone's kind of fighting for a playoff spot already."
The Union face the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday (7 p.m., TCN) at PPL Park.
League of Brotherly Love
In a 3-1 win over Chivas USA on July 12, Michael Farfan faced his twin brother, Gabriel, for the first time on the MLS stage. It was Michael who came away with a win and a go-ahead goal in the 82nd minute. He talked about the feeling of facing his brother.
"It was a little bit [weird to face Gabriel], but not too much," he said. "We've trained against each other for so long, so it wasn't too different facing him on the pitch. The only difference was that he was wearing a different jersey this time."