Fred, a 2010 Philadelphia Union original, is a familiar name to Union fans. The 36 year-old Brazilian, affectionately called “grandpa” in the Union locker room, has a new role within the organization as a player and assistant coach for Bethlehem Steel FC.
“Thankfully they do not call me grandpa here,” Fred said laughing. “It is different now to be an assistant coach and player. “
Fred holds an interesting dynamic in the team that mutually benefits the players and the technical staff. Integrated in the team with the trust and respect of his peers, Fred relays the lessons learned from his years of experience to the younger players engrained in the organization’s player development strategy.
“Every day at training [Fred] gives us someone to lean on,” head coach Brendan Burke said. “He is someone we can count on to lead by example. Even when he is not fit, he is able to have conversations with them player to player, which is difficult for a coaching staff sometimes. He has really integrated himself well on the player side, which is helping us on the management side.”
With experience playing in Brazil, Australia and the U.S., Fred has lived through many challenges at the professional level.
Fred started his professional career in 1997 playing for Brazil’s Olympic Barbacena. After 10 years of playing in Brazil, he went to the Australian A-League where he played for Melbourne Victory and met Union defender Fabinho – who was then with rival Melbourne Heat. While in Australia, Fred helped the Victory win their first A-League Grand Final.
In 2007, Fred joined MLS with D.C. United and was part of the squad that won the Supporters’ Shield in 2007 and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 2008. It was while he was playing in the nation’s capital that current Bethlehem Steel FC goalkeeper Samir Badr first encountered Fred.
“Growing up in D.C., he was one of my childhood idols and now I’m lucky to have the opportunity to work with Fred every day,” Badr said. “He is a great friend and mentor.”
It is the relationships with the players that makes Fred’s role with Steel FC so valuable.
“Those player-to-player conversations in moments in training is the biggest piece for me,” Burke said. “When we go to take a water break and say ´you did this, you needed to do this differently.’ He can have those 30 second conversations, that a coach can have too, but it means so much more to them sometimes coming from a peer who they respect.”
In 2010, Fred joined the Philadelphia Union from D.C. United in a trade for a first-round SuperDraft pick and allocation money and he went on to spend a total three seasons with the Union through the course of 2010 until 2015.
With almost 20 years of professional playing experience, the transition from player to coach is an area that Fred has found the most challenging.
“I still think I can play,” Fred said. “Taking that out of my mind is the most difficult. I still think I can play a couple more years and I think that is the hard transition.”
While the transition is tough, the Steel FC technical staff is guiding him through the challenges.
“After the games I can tell them [the players] what they did right and what they didn’t,” Fred said. “At training I can show them how to do it. Brendan tells me what to do. The technical staff is teaching me how to become a coach and an assistant coach which helps me.”
On Sunday, May 15, Fred made his first appearance with Bethlehem Steel FC during the home game against FC Montreal replacing Leo Fernandes in the 90th minute. It has been a long awaited debut, as Fred was suffering from minor injuries at the beginning of the season, but the fans warmly welcomed his presence.
As Steel FC, now undefeated in five games, embarks on the rest of the season, Fred will continue to share his experiences and help guide the players as they develop and aspire to make the Union squad. Fred has countless stories to share with his Steel FC teammates, but has one piece of advice that he thinks is the most important for the younger guys.
“Be professional, do everything with 100 percent and enjoy,” Fred said. “Now it is a new team, but everyone knows that if you do well here, they can push you to be on the first team so I think that is what they need to think about. Be professional every day, train hard and do everything that the coach asks for.”
After Sunday’s 2-1 win against FC Montreal, Steel FC return to action on Sunday, May 22 for a 6 p.m. away game against the Harrisburg City Islanders. The game will be available on the USL Official YouTube Channel.