Can the "trequartista" have success in MLS?

By Marco Laberge
Felipe trying to win the ball. Photo by blightylad1 on Flickr.

This past season, we saw three, even four very prominent players in the MLS playing this central attacking midfield role (the role of a trequartista) in a very energetic and exciting way. Chris Rolfe and Michael Farfan can both be game changers and carry the team, especially Michael Farfan who has helped Philadelphia have another very successful season. But two players that really stood out this season were Felipe Martins of the Montreal Impact and Federico Higuain, the mid season arrival that really gave the Columbus Crew a big boost.

Michael Farfan is just as good as these two MLS “rookies” if you can call them that because they both have been playing professional soccer for quite a while, but I would like to zoom in on certain aspects that these two recent arrivals have brought to their respective clubs. Felipe Campanholi Martin is Brazilian but seems to have some Italian roots because he possesses an Italian passport and has played with Padova in Italy for a short stint before going to the Swiss Super league. Therefore, he fits in perfectly with the Impact’s Italian connection Federico Higuain, on the other hand, stayed in his home country for most of his career. He has played for many Argentinian clubs including River Plate.  What makes these two players interesting to watch is that they both have been developed differently than here in North America. This allows a bigger diversity of styles in a team and also makes them threats to opponents because they both have different ways of perceiving the game.

First, they both have the ability to receive the ball in congested areas and create space for themselves. This is one of the more important aspects of their game because it allows them to turn a “nothing play” in to something. Many times we will see Felipe turn away from one or two players and explode in to space even if he receives the ball at half. This allows Montreal to create quick counter attacks. He can be especially dangerous when Marco Di Vaio makes his diagonal runs.

Another bonus that these two players seem to bring to the pitch regularly is quality on the ball. Players from Europe or South America always have flawless technique. This attribute is key for any attacking midfielder. Combined with good vision of the field, Federico Higuain often is able to make extremely precise passes. Also, he is very dangerous on free kicks and delivers one the the best “whipped’ corner kicks in the MLS.

Many teams in the MLS have been using the 4-2-3-1 formation which allows creative trequartistas to shine. This position is a very special and unique one and it demands creativity and lethal ball skills that can put a team on  their heels; so why not exploit the creativity of more American players like Diego Fagundez who have the talent to play in a central attacking midfielder role instead of placing him up top where he struggles to get up to high balls because of his shorter stature? He always drops back anyway even if he is a striker, so why not utilize his talent correctly?

Trequartistas always make games so much more entertaining to watch. An example of this is Ronaldinho when he played for Milan. He brought a whole new dimension to Milan’s game. This position allows creative play-makers to shine and since they make games so much more entertaining this position should be used more often in North America.


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