You could say Felipe Martins has a bit of experience suiting up against Orlando City.
An 11-year veteran of the league, Martins has played for five different teams in Major League Soccer, including a couple of multi-year stints with the New York Red Bulls and D.C. United since the Lions joined the league in 2015. Now, coming off a season with the league’s most recent expansion side Austin FC, Martins signed with Orlando as a free agent this offseason to bring his trove of experience and league knowledge to the Central Florida club.
“The first thing I did when they announced [my signing] was sending a message to the group saying, ‘hey guys, I know you probably don’t have good memories of playing against me but I’m here now and I can’t wait to do everything for you guys on the field,”” Martins during his first media availability at training last week.
The 32-year-old Brazilian midfielder started his MLS journey in 2012, when he began a three-year run with Montreal before moving on to spend three seasons with New York, where he helped capture a Supporters’ Shield title in 2015, followed by stints with the Vancouver Whitecaps, D.C., then Austin.
Two weeks into his first preseason, he’s already feeling comfortable with the club and happy with where things are going.
“I think it’s very similar to the way I like to go about, the way I like to train and compete,” he said. “I found a group that is very healthy with a lot of good players, but more importantly good human beings. And I think it’s important for a team in order to succeed.”
Although his playing time has dropped significantly over the last three seasons and he hasn’t been a regular starter with any of his clubs since 2019, Martins, who signed a one-year deal with a club option for 2024 in November, is eager to get to work with an Orlando City group that’s coming off of its first major title in club history last season and hungry for more entering 2023.
“This is a group that won last year, but what has happened, happens in the past,” he noted. “I think the ambition for this year is to go for more. I believe that we need to continue to grow and always represent and play in a way that we represent the community to this city, these fans, keep building trust, the ambition, and make everyone believe in our play in a way that everyone believes that we are a team that is here to stay, is here to compete, and here to win most importantly.”
Martin’s role within Oscar Pareja‘s group remains to be seen. Given his record of service within the league, he’s both one of the oldest and the most-experienced MLS players on the roster, an attribute that will carry a lot of weight for a club that is both young and welcoming in a large handful of players that are entirely new to the league and American in general this season.
The Lions come into preseason looking strong on midfield depth, with Cesar Araujo and Mauricio Pereyra a lock for most of the playing time in the central midfield, but with four separate competitions on the horizon this season (MLS, CONCACAF Champions League, Leagues Cup, and U.S. Open Cup), there will be plenty of minutes to go around.
Whether or not he’s on the field, he brings an instant level of leadership that can go a long way in driving the team forward, helping to cultivate an understanding of who the Lions are, what they want to accomplish, and what they need to do to get there.
“I’m trying to do my best to connect with all the players, doesn’t matter if you’re the youngest or the oldest,” he said of his mentality in the preseason. “I think it’s important that everyone has a good connection, especially with the coaching staff and the staff, the medical staff, everyone; because we are not divided, we are only one and we need to work together towards the goal. You know, we depend on everyone from the guy in the kitchen to the guys on the training grounds. We depend on all of you guys.
“I think that’s the most important that we keep building, we keep creating that mentality that we are one we are not divided. We are one and we’re going for everything together.”
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