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Thursday, March 7, 2013
Top pick Farrell settling in

By Brian O'Connell

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- As the first overall pick in January's MLS SuperDraft, Andrew Farrell wasn't all that concerned with the heavy expectations that awaited him in New England.

He could deal with the pressure. He could shoulder the demands that come with being the No. 1 pick. The way he looked at it, all he had to do was work hard, and everything else would fall into place.

Andrew Farrell
No. 1 pick Andrew Farrell has hit the ground running in New England.
But there was one thing about becoming a pro that worried the former Louisville defender: How would his new teammates take to the new kid on the block?

"That's something I was kind of scared about coming to MLS," Farrell said. "You don't know how welcoming people are, but it's been a super welcoming (atmosphere) and coaching staff is great."

His apprehension about ingratiating himself with the rest of the Revolution squad is proof positive that the soft-spoken Farrell isn't your typical No. 1 pick.

While some top picks come into camp with their own agenda and expect those around them to cater to their every need, Farrell has adopted the exact opposite approach.

"He's humble, but he's also very smart with the way he carries himself," Revolution head coach Jay Heaps said. "He's the No. 1 pick, but how he was accepted in the locker room was unbelievable. From day one, he took it as a responsibility to come in and work as hard as he could."

There's no questioning Farrell's work ethic. Since his arrival seven weeks ago, Farrell has hit the ground running, quickly trying to adapt to top-flight soccer. He admits that he's made mistakes in the process, but one thing he has fully grasped is the level of play in MLS.

"In college, I used a lot of my athleticism and got away with stuff because I was a pretty decent athlete," Farrell said. "Here, everyone's an athlete. In college, there's only a small crop of players who are pretty good, but here, everybody's good."

Heaps, for his part, isn't concerned with Farrell's learning curve. Yes, the 20-year-old may not have a single minute of MLS experience on his resume. However, the Revolution head coach has come away impressed thus far.

"One of the things he brings is that he's very aware of the game," Heaps said. "He's got a very high soccer IQ. When he receives the ball, he's not just receiving it, he's already (contemplating) the next play as it's coming to him. His preparation on the ball and technical ability is very good."

That acute soccer sense has served Farrell well so far. In five preseason games, Farrell hardly looks like an inexperienced rookie. Rather, his runs, positioning and passing are the trademarks of a seasoned pro.

Nevertheless, Farrell isn't about to call himself a finished product. Instead, he continues to work on improving his game. He seeks out his coaches and teammates whenever possible. So far, so good.

"My positioning's gotten a lot better and my technical ability's gotten a lot better this preseason," Farrell said. "So I think learning that, and going (into practice) day in and day out, has helped me so much."

He's also taken to heart an important piece of advice that's especially pertinent to rookie defenders.

"Don't dwell upon your mistakes," Farrell said. "(If) you make a mistake, you get on with the next play. You don't get caught up on one play, so that's something I always think about."

Of course, Farrell's transition from the college ranks to the pros is far from over. There's still plenty to learn. His first major test will likely come during Saturday's season opener in Chicago.

But Farrell isn't worried about nerves or making mistakes. He's the first to admit that he's got a support system that, no matter the challenge or difficulty, will help him get up to speed.

"Coach Heaps helps me a lot with that, along with the veterans," Farrell said. "It's a good group and we've jelled well and that's something that some teams don't have. I'm just excited for Saturday, and hopefully we get the win."