VANCOUVER, BC – You can call him Mr. Consistency.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC midfielder Felipe picked up a pair of assists in Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with San Jose Earthquakes, increasing his team-leading tally to five on this season. That's tied for fourth in Major League Soccer and just two back of the league-leader.
Even more impressive: this is Felipe’s seventh season in MLS and he’s hit the five-assist mark in every single one.
So how has the Brazilian maintained this type of production? And where does it compare to some of his counterparts around the league?
Let’s take a look.
Felipe typically lines up as a central midfielder – a player who is relied upon to contribute on both sides of the ball. He’s not necessarily a pure defensive midfielder (referred to as a #6 in the soccer world), nor is he an attacking midfielder (referred to as a #10), though he is capable of playing both positions as he’s done on occasion.
That’s why he will sometimes fly under the radar. It’s the number 10s who often draw praise for their flashy play and creativity in attack, and the number 6s who stand out for their defensive prowess.
Felipe is a blend between the two.
Defensively, he reads the game well and will rarely be found out of position. And he’s certainly got bite. Last season, Felipe was among the top 10 midfielders in tackles won, duels won, and interceptions, which speaks to his ability to affect the game without the ball at his feet.
He also has an extremely important role to play going forward.
By nature of playing in a deep-lying position in the centre of the park, many of Vancouver’s attacks will start with Felipe. It’s no surprise, therefore, that he leads the team in touches, successful passes, passes into the final third, and chances created so far this season – and it’s not even close. Felipe’s vision and passion range are second to none.
Sometimes, it’s just a matter of making the simple pass, as we saw with both his assists on Wednesday night.
And other times, Felipe has proven fully capable of hitting long balls to release Vancouver’s pacey, attacking players into space, as we also saw on Wednesday.
Then, of course, there’s his set piece delivery.
Only two players – Real Salt Lake’s Albert Rusnák and Columbus Crew SC’s Federico Higuaín – have created more chances than Felipe from set pieces in 2018. And last Friday’s draw with Houston was a prime example of what he can do from dead-ball situations.
It’s easy to see why Felipe has been so productive over the years. Currently, he’s averaging 6.57 assists per season (if you include 2018, and keep in mind we’re only a third of the way through), which compares favourably to some of the other top centre mids in MLS.
For example, the likes of Michael Bradley, Darlington Nagbe, Wil Trapp, Dax McCarty, Kyle Beckerman, Scott Caldwell, Cristian Roldan, and Roger Espinoza are all averaging fewer assists per season and per match during their time in MLS, which speaks volumes. So too does the fact that every single one of them have had a season with fewer than than five assists.
Not only is Felipe Mr. Consistency, he’s also one of the best two-way midfielders in the league.
Next up for Felipe and the ‘Caps is a tilt with FC Dallas on Saturday afternoon at Toyota Stadium (1 p.m. PT on CTV, TSN1/4, and TSN 1040 radio).