New York Red Bulls midfielder Felipe Martins (pictured) appeared in two previous editions of the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League with the Impact de Montreal. (Photo: Mike Lawrence/isiphotos.com)
HARRISON, New Jersey -- When a team competes in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League (SCCL), a deep and talented roster isn’t the only requirement for success – not by a longshot. Just as essential is that those in a squad also possess versatility.
Midfielder Felipe Martins was a perfect example of that notion in the New York Red Bulls' 2-0 victory over visiting Orlando City SC on Wednesday night.
Normally a defensive midfielder, the Brazilian was inserted into Sacha Kljestan's creative role and acquitted himself quite well. He pulled the strings of the attack and scored the insurance goal, his fourth of the Major League Soccer season, in the 59th minute at Red Bull Arena.
Two weeks ago, Felipe told head coach Jesse Marsch that he could fill the position if ever needed. When the pair worked together at the Impact de Montreal, Marsch used Felipe as a No. 10. Since the Red Bulls acquired the 25-year-old Brazilian last year, he has been deployed as a holding midfielder.
"Sometimes you just got to feel what is the best for my [team]," commented Felipe, who has played in six career SCCL games. "I just said like if any time during the year he would ever need me there I would be ready for that and he gave me this opportunity. We have Sacha. He’s our guy that is making the difference there all year long and I’m just the option."
With the unknown eternally over the horizon -- whether it’s injuries, suspensions or players falling out of form -- Marsch knows that he can count on Felipe’s abilities.
"He's very good at it," he remarked. "He's technical and good in tight spots. He's good at slipping a final ball to help lead to goals. Felipe was pretty good today and helped us gain some advantages in the attacking part of the field."
Although Felipe might be an attacking midfielder at heart, he will play anywhere just to be on the field.
"It doesn’t matter where you play,” finished the former FC Lugano (Switzerland) player. “He (Marsch) can put me at Luis’ [Robles, goalkeeper] spot if he ever retired and then I give my best for the team.”
The Red Bulls and Felipe will begin 2016/17 SCCL play against Group F rival Antigua GFC at home on August 3.