Relished recent chance to face former teammate Evan McNeley
By ERIC PLUMMER
SANDPOINT — Over the course of more than a decade, Sandpoint native Brian Farber has established himself as one of the best indoor pro soccer players in the United States, and the 34 year-old is once again playing at an elite level this season for the red-hot San Diego Sockers.
Farber, who played at Sandpoint High School and Oregon State before turning pro and earning a starting spot for the Portland Timbers, eventually turned to the indoor game, where his quickness and speed are a weapon. Since then he’s been a perennial star in the Major Arena Soccer League, where he’s earned MVP honors and is second all-time in MASL goals (140) and points (235).
In the most recent game, Farber scored two goals and dished out an assist as the Sockers (17-3) defeated Rio Grande Valley 13-3 before 3,227 fans. He now has 12 goals in 13 games, and finally healthy, has scored twice in three of the past five games, starting with a 10-3 win over the Tacoma Stars and good friend and former teammate Evan McNeley.
“Nothing is better then playing with your best friend and I know we won a lot more with us both on the same team. But this is professional sports and where we play is out of our control, but it’s still fun to play against Evan,” said Farber, recalling an encounter from the game. “We had one chance to tackle each other pretty hard and luckily we were both smart enough to let that one go. I think if it was anyone else we would have both committed to the tackle a bit harder than we did.”
Farber and McNeley were teammates at Oregon State, and then later in the MASL, where both have excelled for nearly 10 years. Farber first started bringing McNeley to Sandpoint 10 years ago when he started a popular summer soccer camp, which McNeley eventually took over. McNeley has since helped coach the Strikers, and just finished a successful first season as the Sandpoint High School boys soccer coach.
McNeley is a starting defender for the Tacoma Stars, and he wasn’t on the field when Farber scored his two goals, leading to a win that started a current five game streak. The two have played many a match with and against each other, with Farber getting the upper hand in the latest installment.
“The highlight for me was scoring a couple goals in the first quarter and helping us jump out to a lead. I’m sure Evan had a few things to say about that since he was not on the field for the goals I scored and I can imagine he wishes he was,” recalled Farber of the meeting. “We have both been doing this a long time now and retirement is not far away, but I can say I relish these moments because the soccer career is a small part of life. We have been fortunate play on the same team in college, the pros for two different teams, as well as the US National Arena team and there is something about playing with a close friend. It’s like being a kid again where you know exactly what they are going to do with the ball and you just go.”
Farber has been flashing his old MVP form lately, a key midfielder on a team that has designs on yet another league championship. Sockers’ goalie Chris Toth, who has also helped coach the annual week-long summer Camp in Sandpoint, has a solid 9-2 record on the year.
Who knows how much longer the two friends will continue playing professionally, but Farber is already looking forward to a time when they can team up again for the Sandpoint Monarchs, a local team of soccer enthusiasts in Sandpoint.
“I can’t tell you how many goals I scored because of Evan’s pass but he could predict my moment and I could predict his pass way before the defense had it figured out and it worked out in our favor a lot. We are not likely to play on the same team again so when we retire from the pros and have only the Green Monarchs to play it will be the same as it always was,” predicted Farber. “I look forward to the days where we can play in Sandpoint at the new Memorial Field in front of the town I used to call home that has taken in McNeley as one of its own.”
Farber, who is raising a four-year old daughter with wife Kristy, also coaches for the Next Level Footballers Academy during the off-season. The Sockers finish up the regular season this weekend with games against the Ontario Fury and El Paso Coyotes, looking to secure home field advantage for the playoffs.