Before the 2013 MLS draft, former Revolution coach Jay Heaps was weighing trading up for a chance to select Andrew Farrell, a 20-year-old junior at the University of Louisville. However, Heaps believed he needed to justify the move to Jonathan and Robert Kraft, since the proposal ran counter to the modus operandi of the owners’ other team in Foxborough.
“I told Jonathan,” Heaps recalled recently, “this is a guy, he’ll be part of this team for a long time.”
Heaps made Farrell the No. 1 pick in the draft, and his prediction has proved correct. Farrell has been a starter since Day One and, had the MLS season gone as expected, likely would be closing in on Shalrie Joseph’s all-time team minutes-played mark of 22,867.
Just two games into the original 2020 schedule, Farrell passed fourth-place Chris Tierney on the Revolution list with 19,511 minutes in 221 appearances. The Revolution return to play Thursday against the Montreal Impact in the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, Fla., and Farrell stands about 23 games away from Heaps, who is No. 3 on the chart behind Joseph and Matt Reis. Farrell also has compiled more minutes than any other MLS field player from 2013 to present and, at age 28, could look forward to challenging the league’s career leaders.
“I’d say I’ve been fortunate not to have injuries,” Farrell said. “Except my eye [ruptured retina] last year, that was weird. I’ve played through some injuries, but everyone is hurt, everyone has bumps and bruises. So, there’s the mental part of it. I’m just going to keep going and enjoying the game. You can’t play forever, so I’m going to play until my body can’t go any more.
“I’m definitely stretching more and taking more time in the gym to make sure I’m fit. Before my first year, when we were done with practice I played video games, went to eat, or whatever. Now, I stay at the facility, make sure I’m icing and doing all the little things. I [learned from] what guys like A.J. Soares and Jose Gonçalves did to keep them at the highest level.”
Farrell has displayed plenty of perseverance on the playing field, but with no games to play, he had no problem making a switch to performing music recently. During the pause in the MLS season, Farrell worked on his keyboard skills and covered songs such as “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys on social media.
“I always wanted to be a musician, a singer,” Farrell said. “I never took classes, just played by ear, plus on YouTube there’s a good tool. But I never had a keyboard. Then, it was like, ‘Oh, we’re going to be in quarantine for a while.’ I might as well pick it up and get better. So, I ordered a keyboard. I put different songs [on line] and took requests. I think I improved, got better at remembering different songs. I was playing a couple hours a day on the piano ― do anything for a couple hours a day you’re going to get better. I’d love to be better, and I’ll always play here and there, but we’re back at training and I’m focusing on that.”
Farrell makes it difficult to pin down his musical tastes. He mentions Reggaeton, country music (owing to his girlfriend’s preference), hip hop ― in that order ― then several other forms before concluding with his favorite singers, Englishmen James Bay and Ed Sheeran.
“I literally like all types of music, I’ll give anything a shot,” Farrell said.
A childhood spent in Peru immersed Farrell in Latino culture. Living in Lima also influenced Farrell’s world view, as well as his musical inclinations, and composure during matches.
“I was adopted in Louisville and we moved to Peru when I was 5,” Farrell said. “My sister [Ndaya] was adopted first in the Congo and my brother [Will] is from Peru. I’m from the least interesting place.”
Farrell was raised by missionary parents Hunter and Ruth Farrell, who also are anthropologists.
“I learned a lot from my parents,” Farrell said. “It was how they are as people, always humble, always stay positive, helping out others in need. It’s that mentality, that’s how all my siblings are, we’re trying to help the world be a better place. Growing up in a household where they think things differently than other people do, growing up with them and the way they live life, definitely gave me perspective. For me it was like, ‘Oh, that’s how everyone is.’ My parents were good role models. No matter the tough moments or good moments in life, stay positive.”
Heaps was impressed by how Farrell was shaped by his background, and had been grooming him to take on the captain’s role.
“In pre-draft meetings I was just amazed at the confidence in a player like him,” Heaps said. “How he was able to talk about it, understand the importance and why he was turning pro. His family is so well-grounded, the parents are amazing people. And that shows in Andrew. His upbringing in Peru, you could see a lot of his game developed there — the first touch, ability to dribble — you can’t teach that. When I think about coaching in New England, it’s his voice on the field I miss — he’s always up, team-first, lots of energy.
“The thing about him, he makes teammates feel better, he lights people up, you could feel it. The minute he’s out there, he loves the game so much it’s contagious. He’s laughing and smiling, and there is never a play he takes off. You can never fault him for the energy he puts forward. I wanted to be like that as a player.”
In Peru, Farrell modeled himself on Jefferson Farfán, a winger who starred on the national team and continues to compete with Russia’s Lokomotiv Moscow.
“When I was younger, I had Farfán’s coach and I was pretty excited about that,” Farrell said. “I looked like him [Farfán] then and I loved how he played.
“We played in the street, had to wait for cars to pass. Played with neighbors. The game is everywhere, different than here. Everything in the country stops when they play the Clasico, Alianza versus La U [Universitario de Deportes]. That’s where I got the passion for the game.”
Farrell, who spent most of his pro career at right back, has raised his level since moving to central defender last season.
“I’m one of the older guys now, longest tenured, so I need to be more of a leader, more vocal,” Farrell said. “I’m usually vocal but I need to be vocal with a purpose even more, pushing guys, demanding more.”
Farrell said he is anticipating moving into the attack once the Revolution and the rest of MLS restart the season at Wide World of Sports with three group games, followed by a 16-team elimination tournament running through Aug. 11.
“As I get older, I’m getting further away from the goal but in middle school and high school I was a midfielder and forward,” Farrell said. “I scored a lot of goals when I was younger, and Bruce [Arena] is saying he wants us [central defenders] to get three to five goals a year. I’m working on my [aerial] game and I’ve scored a couple in practice.”
A product of his anthropologist parental upbringing, Farrell is intent on improving social conditions through education and understanding.
“We have two viruses out there,” Farrell said, referring to COVID-19 and racism. “Crazy place, the world we live in, and have been living in for a long time. My attitude is to stay positive. I try to explain to people about people of color. It’s a case-by-case basis, everyone’s experience is different.
“But I support what’s going on, the peaceful protests. Not the looting and rioting. I understand why people are frustrated and angry and a lot of people are understanding why. But I understand it’s not good to harm people and businesses. I see why there is so much anger. It’s a very tough situation and, hopefully, we can come together as a country and figure it out. Bruce does a great job of giving us a platform to speak on it. It’s a tough time in our country right now.”
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.