U.S. Youth International Luis Felipe Fernandes Shines In Pro Debut

The 20-year-old put in a strong performance against Miami FC
Pasha Eglit | Apr 7, 2016

Luis Felipe Fernandes made his professional debut Saturday night in the season opener against Miami FC at Lockhart Stadium. With injuries keeping Kléberson and Neil Hlavaty out of the lineup, the highly-rated youngster was given an opportunity to shine.

And he did just that, controlling the midfield alongside the experienced Haitian international Jean-Marc Alexandre. Luis Felipe, 20, achieved a pass accuracy of 92 percent, and contributed with some outstanding play on both sides of the ball in his 90 minutes on the pitch.

“It feels good to have made my professional start with the Strikers,” Luis Felipe said. “The crowd was supporting me and I think I can take advantage of playing in the first team. I hope I can continue to do enough to impress the fans and repay the coaching staff's faith in me.”

Luis Felipe joined the Strikers from Brazilian Serie A side Cruzeiro in January of this year, where he had developed through the club’s academy ranks since 2008. He won the IMG Cup with the club’s U-17 squad.

Coach and general manager Caio Zanardi went on to praise the player’s efforts against Miami FC, and has confidence in the young midfielder’s future.

“Luis Felipe is a young player and it was a good first match for him," Zanardi said. "Of course, he can still improve, but he has the quality to do that. He has the potential to be a regular in the team, but we need to take care of him this season because he is very young - only 20 years old.

“He needs to go step-by-step in his development - how he protects the ball, how he plays, how he moves. The game here [in the United States] is new to him. He has only played one match, but I have confidence in him.”

Despite his age, Luis Felipe has already shown maturity, as well as quality, at the international level. He has represented the United States at the U-20 level under Tab Ramos. Born in New York to Brazilian parents, Luis Felipe spent most of his life in Brazil and is also eligible to represent the Seleção.

Assistant coach Phillip Dos Santos believes Luis Felipe rose to the occasion.

"There were some nerves, but I think that’s something he is going to overcome because of the quality and the mental ability he has," Dos Santos said. “Luis Felipe, first and foremost, is a player with a lot of quality. I think he had some good moments on Saturday and we are going to keep working with him. I am sure he is going to be an asset to the team this year.”

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