New York Red Bulls central midfielder Felipe Campanholi Martens, or just Felipe as is his preferred moniker, has expressed interest in joining the U.S. Men's National Team once he receives his U.S. citizenship. Felipe, who is Brazilian and currently holds a Green Card, plays a valuable role for New York. He helps hold possession, can pick a pass in attack, is tireless in working to win the ball back, helps shield the backline, has a really good strike on a free kick, and gets under his opponents' skin to the point that there are few players in MLS that don’t dream of kicking him. Still, is he a good fit for the USMNT?
Felipe is the exact wrong type of player to be considered for the Stars and Stripes at this stage in his career. He would more than likely be 29 years-old by the time he would be eligible to join the team and is an MLS veteran role player who is a steady presence on the field, though he could be a liability for his tendency to be a card magnet. He's never been on an All-Star team, which surely isn't the best barometer of anything other than a player's popularity or marketability, but it speaks to his play in the minds of MLS fans; more tellingly, he has never appeared on an MLS best 11.
He's a step down from Michael Bradley, who will hopefully be moving out of the player pool by the time 2019 rolls around, or sooner. What's more, he would be taking opportunities from players like Kellyn Acosta, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, or even emerging talents like Chris Goslin.
This is nothing against Felipe. He is a fine player and it is admirable that he has set the goal of representing his country, but time has passed for looking at players who are exiting their prime for the USMNT player pool.
Whoever the U.S. coach is for the next World Cup cycle needs to be looking forward and Felipe would be a look backwards. It would be a look at what isn't effective at qualifying for the Men's World Cup or moving the USMNT program forward in a meaningful way.
A way to do that would be to call in a player like Jack Harrison should he get his citizenship. Harrison began his career in the Manchester United youth system before coming to the United States to attend boarding school, eventually earning a scholarship to Wake Forest. The soon to be 21 year-old now plays for NYCFC, has European clubs sniffing around, and is in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. Of course, he would have to put off a transfer to Europe to stay on that path while also eschewing call-ups to the senior England Men’s National Team.
In a way, each of these players represents a choice for the U.S. Men’s soccer program. One represents a way to get better and smarter, the other a continuation of the process that conflates middling performances and winning off year Gold Cups with progress.