His teammates call him "Grandpa," but Fred still has plenty of samba left in his soccer

Playing soccer at a high level is all this Brazilian wants to do

Fred vs. NYRB

Photo Credit: 
Sideline Photos LLC

It had been 1,461 days since Helbert Frederico Carreiro da Silva last registered a goal for the Philadelphia Union.

This roughly equates to four years, which means yes, the man known simply as “Fred” has not scored since the Union’s inaugural season.

The journey for Fred began in Brazil, a place regarded as the birthplace of soccer. In Brazil soccer is more than just a sport, it’s a religion. Anyone that tuned into this year’s FIFA World Cup in his native homeland saw that first hand, Brazilian -- infants to elders lined the streets taking in the beautiful game.

For many Americans this was just a month for getting to understand the ins and outs of a game they rarely see, but for the native Brazilians it was only an internationally televised extension of their daily lives.

Fred’s career began in his home country with a third division side Olympic Club. With the wealth of talent in Brazil it’s no surprise many great players spend a significant time in the country’s equivalent of the minor leagues.

In 2007, Fred brought his talents to the States and our nation’s capital, which resulted in a one-season stint with D.C. United before Fred moved again and found a home with the upstart Philadelphia Union.

While things were just beginning in Philadelphia Fred’s soccer career was well underway.

The 2010 season was a positive year for Fred, as the singular-named star finished third on the upstart Union in scoring and more importantly made a lasting impact with the fans.

Fast forward to July 16, 2014. The Union, now four years into existence, are deep in the trenches against rival New York Red Bulls in a pivotal Eastern Conference game. With Philadelphia leading 1-0 late in the first half, Union midfielder Cristian Maidana picked up an injury and needed to be removed.

Looking down the bench, interim manager Jim Curtin didn’t have a plethora of options to go with. Two players suspended with red cards, and others not really fitting the mold of Maidana, Curtin had littel choice than to go with a player who had only seen action in three games this season, Fred. Having returned to Philadelphia after more stops in Australia and Major League Soccer, Fred would enter the came on in the 38th minute.

Early in the second half after reverberating chants of “Fred, Fred, Fred” had been heard throughout PPL Park, the midfielder gave all in attendance something to genuinely cheer about.

In the 51st minute after coolly collecting a cross from Sheanon Williams and a deft touch from Casey, Fred made no mistake inside the box, and slotted past the Red Bulls keeper to give the Union a 2-0 lead, and split the game wide open.

“Fred’s always in good spots.  He’s a big contributor, maybe you guys haven’t seem him that much on the field, but in practice we know what he can do.  We’re happy he’s healthy, we’re happy we have him,” said assist-man Williams.

But what did the goal-scorer himself have to say about his hugely important and somewhat improbable finish?

“I am blessed today.  I didn’t expect Chaco to get injured and I’m so sorry for him.  I think everyone has to be ready to play and help the team.  I’m so happy and thank you God to give me this opportunity.”

Humility in the face of magnitude.

Fred remains a cult-hero in Philadelphia and only added to his folklore with his performance against the Red Bulls. He would see action again on Saturday in a 1-1 draw against Chicago and though fleeting it still helped secure a road point for the Union. This time it was Sebastien Le Toux that was the hero, scoring his eighth goal in MLS play via a PK at the edge of stoppage time.

But Le Toux is for another day. This story is about Fred.

Contact Union writer Doug Ammon at dammon@philadelphiaunion.com