Harrison, N.J. – The New York Red Bulls won their first game of the MLS season Saturday night at Red Bull Arena in thrilling style, coming back twice to beat the Houston Dynamo, thanks in large part to a pair of spectacular goals from Brazilian midfielder Felipe Campanholi Martins, aka Felipe.
As is the custom with Brazilian soccer players, the Red Bulls central midfielder goes by a single name. Like Pele, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Neymar and so many members of the Selecao past and present.
To hear Houston manager Owen Coyle talk after the match, one might have concluded that the former English Premier League manager with the Bolton Wanderers was talking about one of the aforementioned mononymous superstars and not the Red Bulls low profile midfielder.
Then again, it may be that Coyle simply didn’t know Felipe’s name. “Two world class finishes from the lad,” the Scotsman volunteered when asked to talk about his team’s loss. “Two fantastic strikes.”
“The third and fourth goals,” Coyle continued, “I’ve no doubt, for me, are world class strikes.” Reflecting on his own career as a player and manager in England and Scotland, Coyle expounded. “I’ve been fortunate to work with some very good players and competed against some terrific players and any of those players that I worked with or played against most certainly would have been proud of the two strikes from the third and fourth goals.”
While the opposing coach focused on the skill shown by his Felipe in Saturday’s Red Bulls victory, his own coach Jesse Marsch wanted to talk about a less exalted, if no less important aspect of the 25-year old’s game, Felipe’s grit.
“The two guys on our team that have grit and a competitive edge,” Marsch said with added emphasis on the word grit, “are Dax and Felipe.” The coach noted that he has options in the center of the park, naming Sean Davis, Tyler Adams and the third starter in New York’s midfield triumvirate Sacha Kljestan. “But,” Marsch underlined, “the fact that those two are in the middle of the midfield for us, I think that makes our team in many ways because they’re so gritty and they don’t ever want to lose.”
Felipe was a regular for Marsch with the expansion Montreal Impact in 2012, starting 30 games and contributing four goals and a team-leading 10 assists, so it was no surprise that the coach was quick to acquire the midfielder when he took over the Red Bulls job prior to last season.
Playing time is the ultimate barometer of how a coach rates a player and as the only Red Bull to start all 34 games, plus all four of the team’s playoff matches, Felipe clearly has his coach’s trust.
Not that Felipe is resting on his laurels. No, standing at his locker after Saturday’s “world class” brace, the blue collar Brazilian put it all down to hard work. “I have been working the last couple of week’s on some shooting. I know that is part of me (my game) that I needed to do better this year because I always look myself to see what I can improve and that was one of the things from last year that I thought that I would improve.”
Felipe drew a laugh when he said, “thank you to Sacha, he let me take the free kick,” and while it may be some time before Kljestan regains his free kick responsibilities, Felipe is unlikely to mind either way.
“The fans need to know that every time we step on the field we are going to give everything, we are going to give our heart for the jersey.”
From Felipe, those fans can expect plenty of the “grit and competitive edge,” that Marsch extolled and perhaps another dose or two of what Dynamo coach Owen Coyle termed Felipe’s “genuine class.”