Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
Lack of options drives Feilhaber to MLS
by Ridge Mahoney, April 20th, 2011 11:07PM
Subscribe to Soccer America Daily

MOST READ
TAGS:  americans abroad, denmark, men's national team, new england revolution

MOST COMMENTED

[MLS]Six years in Europe is a long time for any American, and especially for a young soccer player trying to establish himself.

With 38 appearances for the U.S., and a background with the 2005 U-20s and 2008 Olympic team, midfielder Benny Feilhaber is an established member of the national team pool at age 26. But he hasn’t played that many more games at the club level: approximately 70 first-team games for Hamburg, Derby County, and AGF Aarhus, which he left last week to sign with MLS about two months before his contract was due to expire.

Aarhus was relegated to the second division last year. Laboring at that level of competition, Feilhaber knew, meant regression. He felt it in his game, he said as much last October when called up for friendlies against Poland and Colombia. He didn’t play in the three U.S. matches this year.

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Feilhaber admitted he expected a move last summer, after he played in three of four World Cup matches as a halftime sub when the attack needed impetus. But when nothing arose last summer, nor during the January winter transfer period, and time wound down to the mid-April close of the U.S. registration period, MLS became more and more appealing.

“I just think the timing was right,” says Feilhaber, who was born in Brazil, grew up in Southern California, and played college ball at UCLA. “I’ve had a good time in Europe for six years. My experience has been an important one. I think I’ve improved my football [from when] I first came. I was young, but Europe teaches you things that are tough to learn when you’re playing close to home.”

Four years ago, Feilhaber seemingly assured his national-team slot for at least a decade by hitting a spectacular volleyed goal against Mexico in the Concacaf Gold Cup final. He’s been impressive in spurts, like at the 2009 Confederations Cup, but lackluster in other appearances. Competition from attack-minded options Landon Donovan, Stuart Holden, Jose Francisco Torres and Clint Dempsey, and with two-way stalwarts Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Ricardo Clark, and now Jermaine Jones, has marginalized his U.S. prospects.

Yet he is regarded as perhaps the most fluently skilled of the bunch, with a feathery touch, crisp passing stroke, quick feet, and decent shot. To wait any longer to find a fruitful club environment might risk stagnation, since field players normally peak in their late 20s, and missing a short-term goal: a spot on the U.S. squad for the Concacaf Gold Cup, which kicks off in about seven weeks. (There’s also a friendly against Spain June 4 in his new digs, Gillette Stadium, to be considered.)

“Europe has been something I’ve felt has been important to me for a long time,” he says of his development as a player. “To be honest, after the World Cup, I thought there was an opportunity to potentially move from Aarhus, even in the winter transfer window four or five months ago, and it didn’t happen. At a certain point, I decided that it wasn’t necessarily a bad decision to let it go all the way to the summer.

“But at the same time, I didn’t know if I was going to get an opportunity like this that came up right now. Had this opportunity come up two months from now, then maybe I could have waited and checked out all the options. But at this point, I thought it was such a good opportunity that I really couldn’t see it pass by.”

Feilhaber joins a Revolution team to which another veteran of Danish soccer, striker Rajko Lekic, has recently been added in a significant overhaul. Two Frenchmen – Didier Domi and Ousmane Dabo – and Argentine defender Franco Coria were signed in the offseason, and rookiesA.J. Soares and Stephen McCarthy have already seen regular playing time.

How head coach Steve Nicol will incorporate Feilhaber and Lekic into an attack that features Serbians Marko Perovic andIlija Stolica nobody, not even the coach, yet knows. Feilhaber prefers the center, as most ball wizards do, but he’s not out of place on either flank.

Once Nicol actually gets to meet his new player, the process can begin, assuming that there isn’t a trade being negotiated behind the scenes. The Revs used their No. 3 slot in the MLS allocation order to acquire Feilhaber and by doing so have dropped to the bottom of the list.

Vice president of player personnel Mike Burns confirmed that there were trade discussions but would not go into specifics. “All I’ll say is that yes, there were some teams that contacted us about Benny,” said Burns. “In terms of what teams, and what teams offered, I’m not comfortable getting into those details.”

The Revs have been labeled as stodgy and straightforward in the past, despite fielding clever players like Joe-Max Moore, Dempsey, Pat Noonan and Steve Ralston. New England has relied more recently on the strength and power of Shalrie Joseph, and the speed of Kenny Mansally and Sainey Nyassi. Feilhaber is certainly a different element.

Reports have pegged his salary at approximately $400,000, which would be the second-highest on the team behind Joseph ($475,000) based on last year’s figures, and about the same as Red  Bull attacker Dwayne De Rosario ($443,750). Salaries for the current season won’t be released by the MLS Players’ Union for at least another month.

“Easily Benny gives us options,” says Nicol. “We can play with three [in central midfield], we can go with two. The good thing for us is we have options. Once he gets in and gets settled in with us, we’ll decide what’s ultimately best for us, and him, as well.”

Said Feilhaber of his new situation, “It’s similar to what coach Steve Nicol said – I don’t exactly know what to call him yet since we haven’t been formally introduced. I feel I’m a good passer of the ball, I’m pretty calm on the ball and I can spring the team into the attack. That’s definitely what I’m going to try to bring to the team.”



No comments yet.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Daily
MLS Power Rankings: Galaxy takes third, Red Bulls now fifth    
Leader FC Dallas played a 1-1 tie with No. 2 Colorado that kept those teams in ...
TV Report: MLS up 32 percent on ESPN and ESPN2    
MLS is averaging 312,000 viewers on ESPN and ESPN2 in 2016, up 32 percent from the ...
MLS Moves: Schmid's run in Seattle is over    
Sigi Schmid, the only coach the Seattle Sounders have ever had in their eight MLS seasons, ...
Video Pick: Sakho sent home after Alcatraz visit    
Here's the GoPro video of Liverpool's Alcatraz tour filmed by Mamadou Sakho before Coach Jurgen Klopp ...
MLS Injury Report: Timbers' Borchers out for season    
Portland Timbers defender Nat Borchers will miss the rest of the 2016 season with a ruptured ...
TV Report: MLS All-Star Game will air in Cuba    
The MLS All-Star Game will be broadcast for the first time in Cuba. MLS reached an ...
Crowd Count: MLS chases 2015 attendance record    
At the All-Star break, MLS clubs are averaging 21,429 fans a game, almost unchanged (down 0.6 ...
What They're Saying: Chinese soccer fan Netizen Liu Ningning    
"I don't mind spending money on the ticket, I don't have to watch the game, but ...
What They're Saying: Bill Edwards    
"As [head coach] Stuart [Campbell] said after the match, the officiating was disgusting. It was the ...
USL Rewind: Big crowd sees Cincy win River Cities Cup    
Drained by a busy schedule of league matches and a friendly against Crystal Palace, FC Cincinnati ...
>> Soccer America Daily Archives