On December 21st 2011, prior to the Montreal Impact's first season in MLS, the team announced the signing of an relatively unknown, diminutive Brazilian, Felipe Campanholi Martins. Although he was only 21 years of age, at the time of the signing, he was already fairly well traveled, having made stops in Italy and England before settling down in the Swiss League.
He was described as a very solid, two way player that could hurt teams that were slow to close him down. He quickly became a fan favorite, with his array of flicks and tricks, it seemed as though the Impact had found a diamond in the rough. He fit in quite nicely in Jesse Marsch's system and enjoyed a very solid first year, starting all 30 MLS games he played in (2,652 minutes), while collecting 4 goals and 10 assists.
His fearless play on both sides of the ball earned him spot number 5 on the list of MLS Best 24 Under 24. His sophomore year, under new coach Marco Schallibaum, was fairly similar to his first year, starting 28 of the 32 games he featured in, and his point totals were also close (5g 8a).
However, some began to notice that he would disappear for stretches at a time and his lack of consistency began to show. It started during this past season, although his totals were only slightly down, and many began to wonder if it was time to say goodbye to the one-time fan favorite.
Three years into his MLS career, it is clear that Felipe Martins is at his best when he is in the middle, playing higher up the pitch, closer to the striker as opposed to on the wings. That position would probably be better for him as he would then have to compete with Justin Mapp , Issey Nakajima-Farran, 2014 team MVP Andres Romero, who are all returning as well as the star DP Ignacio Piatti.
He will face more direct competition from Dilly Duka, the former Chicago Fire midfielder, who Frank Klopas had at his disposal in Chicago. Duka featured in 14 Impact games last year collecting 3 goals and 3 assists while looking very comfortable on the ball and providing a different dimension to the teams attack.
The technical staff wanted depth at every position, which the Impact now have in abundance in the midfield position, that will help them through injuries, suspensions and other situations they may face in the coming season. That new found depth could spell the end for Felipe. The arrival of Duka has definitely opened the door for Felipe to become expendable.
I for one do not see him as an 'untouchable' anymore and as hard as it would be to see the team let him go, it's just maybe the best plan. If the team continues with their preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, it is not far fetched to think that a rotation of Mapp, Issey, Romero, Duka and Piatti, could not handle the load throughout the season.
If Felipe is still in an Impact uniform to start the year, it could very well be a make or break year for him. We have heard it from management before that the team is close to the cap. With the club thin on defenders and forwards, will Klopas pull the trigger and be tempted to give up on Felipe?
Undoubtedly, he has the talent to make it in the MLS, he is still young, and plays with his heart. But it is time for him to raise his game to a new level. If Felipe does not want to be the odd man out, he will need to be a lot more consistent, and make sure he brings his A game every time he sets foot on the pitch otherwise it could be the end of his journey in Montreal.