Photo by ISIphotos.com
by GIANFRANCO PANIZO
When the U.S. national team plays Brazil on Sunday in the Confederations Cup final, there will likely be twelve Brazilians on the field when the game kicks off.
No, the Brazilians are not going to have an extra player on the field, nor is the referee for Sunday's match from the South American country. But Brazilian-born American midfielder Benny Feilhaber is the most likely candidate to step into the U.S. line-up given the suspension of midfielder Michael Bradley.
Feilhaber, who was born in Rio de Janeiro, has enjoyed a successful transition back into the U.S. national team mix, having played in five of the team's six matches this summer. He made his return to international soccer after a year-long hiatus when he was used as a halftime sub for Pablo Mastroeni in the United States' 2-1 victory over Honduras in World Cup qualifying.
The AGF Aarhus midfielder has continued to come off the bench since then, with his lone start coming in the 3-1 loss to Italy in the Group B opener of the Confederations Cup. Feilhaber also made second-half appearances against Spain, in which he was key in the buildup to the United States' second goal, Egypt and Brazil.
While some fans may ask for the inclusions of midfielders Jose Francisco Torres or Freddy Adu when the U.S. takes on the likes of Kaka and Robinho, it is Feilhaber who best suits the U.S. team. Not only does Feilhaber provide more defensive bite than either Adu or Torres, but Feilhaber is quite familiar with the Brazilian team, having played them in both previous encounters. While he struggled in his first meeting vs. Brazil, back in 2007, Feilhaber showed some good flashes last week, including a shot that stung off the crossbar in the waning moments of the match.
Feilhaber is also no stranger to filling in for Michael Bradley, who was ejected in the 87th minute against Spain. It was a little more than two years ago when, in an eerily similar situation, Bradley was red carded in the 86th minute of the semifinals of the Gold Cup, setting the stage for Feilhaber to replace him in the tournament's final against Mexico.
Feilhaber played a key role in the match that day, blasting a superb game-winning volley past Osvaldo Sanchez as the United States defeated Mexico, 2-1, winning the cup and clinching the Americans' passage to the Confederations Cup.
If history does indeed repeat itself, then Sunday will be a Brazilian's chance to shine once again, only he won't be playing for the Selecao.
Do you think Feilhaber should start tomorrow? Are you feeling deja vu? Hoping Feilhaber pulls a Rossi and scores against his birth nation tomorrow?
Share your thoughts below.