Felipe Martins is only in his 2nd year in Major League Soccer but his 2012 stats would tell another story. With 4 goals and 10 assists, the Brazilian midfielder impressed Montreal Impact fans, observers and the rest of the league. With new head coach Marco Schällibaum, new ideas were going to be implemented. Even though Schällibaum coached Felipe in Switzerland, the Brazilian midfielder is having trouble finding his marks in a new system.
The 2-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City confirmed that the Impact need to enhance its offensive portfolio. Predictable through the middle, having more options are key to a team's long-term success throughout a 30+ game season. We have talked already about having more offensive options on the sides with the wingers and right backs. But Felipe's role is as important if not more in this equation.
With a new system comes growing pains to adapt quickly. Inside a counterattacking style, Felipe's profile is perfect to fit in quickly. Combining speed and a minimum of technique. Felipe did deliver a genius pass on Davy Arnaud's goal against the Seattle Sounders. The worrisome part is in the evolution of his form that is almost starting to devolve..
Never really seeming very comfortable in his ball touches and runs, I thought that Felipe was being marked more than last year. His marking is not necessarily different than before but something is making him uncomfortable. The obvious culprit would be the adaptation to new tactics and a new positioning.
Seeming to be more ''lost'' on the field than effective, this obviously hinders the Impact's options. His chemistry with Marco Di Vaio was one of the highlights of the Impact's season in 2012. And in the way Montreal plays, the second striker is actually the ''midfield as a whole'' , hence the importance of Felipe.
Without expecting him to score goals, being more active in the passing and ball distribution will be key to helping out Patrice Bernier. Not that Bernier needs help to pass the ball but the team needs more options and Felipe is a Big option. Coming off a season-ending sports hernia surgery, he admits himself not being 100% physically and that is fully understandable and expected.
The left side of my abdomen is less strong than my right side....I have to work hard and its not like I can buy muscles at the supermarket -- Felipe Martins
The good news is that he kept his smile and sense of humor.
Statistically, Felipe has been touching less of the ball, averaging 20-30 passes per game. With a higher rate of ball losses, his positioning or re-positioning might come sooner than later. The flexibility that he has shown in 2012 might save him again in 2013. Playing as a holding midfielder in the beginning of the 2012 season, the switch to a 4-2-3-1 showed the offensive instinct of the Brazilian maestro.
Reference games (against the Houston Dynamo and the Seattle Sounders at Stade Saputo) showed that he can play behind a striker, in front of the 2 holding midfielders and even fill in the winger spot when needed. Getting back to the basics and rekindling the chemistry with Bernier and Di Vaio can give a big boost to a young talented midfielder.
It is very early to start to panic about Felipe's performance especially with a 4-1 record. Having a winning record and a bye week is great news for the team to regroup and for the Boy From Parana to find his inner Joga Bonito.