MONTREAL – “Soccer is my life,” Felipe told MLSsoccer.com a month ago. And despite the relatively low risks of sports hernia surgery, one can only imagine how relieved the 22-year-old was when he was told the procedure was a success.
While Felipe can now freely think about the recovery process, Montreal Impact head coach Jesse Marsch and his staff now have to figure out what life without the Brazilian will be like for the remaining two games of the season.
The Impact’s first Felipe-less experience, a 1-1 tie in Houston, was 4-4-2-based, with Calum Mallace filling in for the suspended Collen Warner and a second striker, Andrew Wenger. With the Wenger's partnership with Marco Di Vaio coming along, chances are that there will still not be a like-for-like replacement for Felipe on Saturday at Toronto FC or the Oct. 27 finale at home against New England.
“The way we’ve done it with Marco and Andrew is to ask Marco to not fully play exactly like Felipe, but to come underneath a little bit more and not be along the line as much,” Marsch told reporters on Tuesday.
It is a role, after all, that Di Vaio has played in the past, having played with one or even two partners up front numerous times over the years. Thanks to his intelligence and tactical savvy, Di Vaio has displayed an ability to choose the right opportunities to drop into midfield and play provider for his colleagues.
“I think that’s been good for him and for the team,” Marsch said of Di Vaio’s responsibilities in Montreal. “He’s shown that he can still do that role in a good way.”
This being said, the 36-year-old had struck a good understanding with Felipe, and he admits that he, just like the rest of the team, will miss the Impact’s top assist-provider. Di Vaio does find some comfort, however, in the fact that Felipe will only miss two games.
“He does a lot for us on the field and helps us play the way we want to play,” Di Vaio told MLSsoccer.com. “We’re upset that he’s gone, but at least he’s not missing playoff games. Had we made the playoffs, it would have been tough, going through such a challenging time without him. He’ll come back stronger next year.”