Felipe to Meet His Equal in Feilhaber

Felipe Martins, the New York Red Bulls midfielder known for being a chippy player who is equally good at getting under the opponent’s skin, is ready for a battle on Wednesday night (8 PM, MSG).

It’s a physical encounter when going up against Felipe, the ultimate team player who has also mastered the art of getting his opponents hot and bothered.

For the midweek match against Sporting Kansas City, Felipe will be able to trash talk in his native Portuguese. Wednesday night’s match will feature the aggressive, feisty Felipe against fellow Brazilian Benny Feilhaber. A former United States international, Feilhaber is known for being hot-blooded on the field, a competitor who loves to battle.

Those attributes made him a success in Europe with several prominent club teams as well as seeing him earn 43 caps with the United States national team.

It should make for quite a show in the center of the midfield, both in terms of tackles and also some of the words that surely will be flying back and forth, with Felipe saying with a shrug and a smile that “I am what I am.”

Mar 6, 2016; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York Red Bulls midfielder Felipe Martins (8) taunts Toronto FC goalkeeper Clint Irwin (1) during second half at Red Bull Arena.The Toronto FC defeated the New York Red Bulls 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

“It’s interesting because every time I play against Feilhaber, we can speak in Portuguese – only I can understand when we’re talking,” Felipe said on Monday. No one else on the Red Bulls speaks Portuguese, fluent or otherwise.

“But Feilhaber is a competitive guy. With the guys that I talk, I think I’m the guy that talks the most so I don’t get bothered by them. This is part of the game. Guys, if they get frustrated, it’s their problem, not mine. I have to do what I have to do to win the game.”

On Saturday night, Felipe was at his finest against the Chicago Fire. Playing deep in the midfield, he was right in front of the Red Bulls center backs where he destroyed and clogged up the center channels. His presence, alongside 18-year-old Tyler Adams, helped neutralize a potent Fire midfield that includes Bastian Schweinsteiger.

The former German international, whose career stops include Bayern Munich and recently Manchester United, had his moments in the match but was largely kept in place by the play of Felipe.

There also was a much ballyhooed moment post-match where Schweinsteiger looked to want to shake hands with Felipe, who refused. This time, Felipe chose to take what he pained as the high road.

Apr 29, 2017; Harrison, NJ, USA; Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger (31) reacts during the second half against the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

“I think that he wanted to shake my hand to say something. Instead of getting in a provocation, I thought it would be the best thing to walk around and enjoy the win,” Felipe said.

“The thing with the big guys, they play around. They relate to what they were, not to what they are right now. They are here, they are the same like us, they play in the league. We have to respect them as much they are going to respect us. If they show respect, we’re going to respect. If they don’t show respect, why are we going to show them respect?

“In a game like this, those guys don’t like to be touched, don’t like to be fouled. We are there to win. I got to do what I got to do to win the game and for this team to do their best.”

RED BULLS NOTES

  • Aurélien Collin will be out at least several weeks. The Red Bulls central defender suffered a groin strain late last week. My sources tell me that the timetable for a return could be up to four weeks, but head coach Jesse Marsch is optimistic on a speedy recovery. “We’re hopeful that it’s faster than that, we’ll see,” Marsch said on Monday.