Feilhaber’s future in limbo as Revs keep adding midfielders

By FRANCO PANIZO

Benny Feilhaber was hardly an every-game starter at the end of the season for the New England Revolution and early offseason signs indicate that his time with the club might soon near its end.

New England signed Mali international Kalif Cisse on a free transfer on Monday, acquiring the 28-year-old midfielder on a free transfer from England’s Bristol City. The move further bolsters a quality Revolution midfield that recently added Andy Dorman, but it also means that Feilhaber will now have an even tougher time trying to earn minutes from head coach Jay Heaps.

The Revolution have not made any statements regarding Feilhaber’s future, but the writing seems to be on the wall. The 27-year-old earned a base salary of $400,00 in 2012, which is too high a figure for a player who is not starting week in and week out.

Feilhaber is still capable of unlocking defenses with his quality passing and good vision, but there are questions as to how much of a defensive liability he is. In New England’s system, he just does not seem to fit. He had just one goal and two assists and was in and out of the lineup in a frustrating 2012.

The Revolution could waive Feilhaber this offseason, but it is more likely that they trade him or even sell him (assuming any foreign club would meet New England’s sell price). Just which club would take him and his hefty salary is anyone’s guess, but there are several teams that could use a midfielder with the creativity Feilhaber possesses.

For Feilhaber to strive, though, he needs to find a near-perfect fit in terms of style of play. Feilhaber is more finesse than he is physical and heĀ needs to be allowed some freedom going forward. Still, he has not managed to boss games consistently enough to be handed such a role without it being given some serious thought.

Where Feilhaber’s future will be is unknown, but it does not seem to be in New England.

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53 Responses to Feilhaber’s future in limbo as Revs keep adding midfielders

  1. HoboMike says:

    Amazing that just 3 years ago, this guy controlled our midfield against Spain in the Confederations Cup, and that just 2 years ago, he was our impact sub in the WC.

    I love his playmaking ability.

    • Bobb says:

      I’m also a fan of his with the national team. He may not be a complete player but he is a great option as a late game substitute when we need a goal or just to control the ball better.

      Or we could use that roster spot on a seventh defensive midfielder!

  2. A says:

    Feilhaber is in the same boat as Adu it seems. They are both creative, finesse CAMs who play in a league that values anything but that. Neither is strong defensively and are thus discounted.

    Chicago had Grazzini playing that exact role for awhile and he flourished something wild until he had to bail out back to Argentina.

    I think it’s disturbing to see these players being forced out instead of embraced. MLS will continue to flounder from a technical standpoint until it starts embracing technical instead of physical and tactical versus targeted.

    • David St. Hubbins says:

      or maybe Feilhaber just had a bad season

      NE had 2 other “finesse” attacking mids who did just fine this year in Rowe and Nguyen

    • Riggis says:

      Good assessment! Why not combine the technical with the physical and tactical? I agree that we need all 3 to grow to the next level internationally but don’t see that happening any time soon. One only has to look at a team like Spain whos success revolves around combining all 3 qualities around the pitch.

      • A says:

        Barcelona is a great example. Spain too (Xabi and Ramos)

        They have two players in Busquets and Mascherano who are less technical, but overly physical and tactical that alleviate the pressure on the guys in front of them who focus less on physical and much much more on technical.

        Obviously that’s an extreme case since they’re both two of the greatest teams ever assembled, but the gist of the idea is what we’re going for.

        • golfstrom says:

          Sorry, have to do some internet arguing. Busquets is actually a highly technical player (amazing in tight spaces) and not much of a physical one (he’s tall, but slight and very very very slow).

          Mascherano was a d-mid when he joined Barca, but is now almost exclusively a defender for them. What the US and Barca look for in a defender are not that dissimilar at the end of the day (give or take some ball skills).

          I’m always confused when an article about Benny Feilhaber turns into a why can’t the US be more like Spain and Barcelona.

          • A says:

            I don’t disagree.

            I think Busquets is wildly gifted for a CDM. He’s just not as technical as Xavi Iniesta and Cesc (who is right?).

    • Adam says:

      Totally on board with A, there should be room for a few players who bring creativity without being overly burdened by defensive responsibility in the league. Not all teams have the supporting cast, but nourishing a few special players like that is how you take the next step up and start seeing some truly exciting soccer, and developing world class talent.

    • lyqwyd says:

      Benny has had his opportunities in Europe (Germany England, and Denmark). His creativity and finesse in those leagues were not enough for them to keep him around. Are you then in turn suggesting that those leagues floundering because they did not embrace his creative, technical abilities. There are plenty of technical, creative, and finesse players in MLS that are successful. Very quickly off the top of my head a few examples, Fredy Montero, DeRo, Graham Zusi, and Rivero. How is it these players can be creative, technical players in the rough and tumble MLS and be successful and Benny can not?

      • A says:

        Graham Zusi tracks back on defense fairly often–he’s also a very physical player.

        Freddy Montero is a forward.

        DeRo actually makes my argument. He played on 3 teams in a single season because teams kept pushing him along saying he didn’t fit. He just happens to score a ton of goals and is a veteran leader so he found a team willing to keep him.

  3. B says:

    I disagree. It’s not that they’re not valued because they’re technical and not physical. It’s they’re not producing enough from a creativity standpoint to warrant the fact that they’re not two way players. Plenty of technical players have done well in the league but if you’re not producing you’ve become a liability tactically. It’s the same everywhere else in the world (where the players you mentioned have had mixed success as well).

    • Felix says:

      Good point. They will deal with creative/technical players if they produce consistently. The question is was Benny’s production down because of his own play, or because NE were so poor?
      I’d love to see him with the Fire, someone with his vision and ability to pick a pass would be an asset to our workmanlike midfield and pacey wingers.
      But he does make alot of money by MLS standards.

    • Beto says:

      +1000 exactly my thought.

    • Ryan says:

      I think it’s worth noting that both Feilhaber and Adu play on teams with terrible forwards. I didn’t get to watch New England much this year (why would I subject myself to that?) but I caught a number of Philly games and when Adu was in, he created exceptional amounts of fairly clear-cut chances that the forwards couldn’t finish. In turn, if you look at creative guys on other teams that have been successful, you’ll notice that they also have decent forwards to help them out. Unfortunately for guys like Benny and Freddy, people don’t look at chances created- they only look at chances taken.

      • Gary Page says:

        As someone who fancied himself as a good passing center mid, I would have to agree that those of us in that position rarely get the attention, it goes to the attackers who score off of our passes.

    • Al says:

      Your point is not valid what so ever. It is like Adu in Philly, we have all seen the youtube video of the NUMEROUS chances Adu created this season with the Union and the horrible finishing that came with it. It is the same thing with Benny. How can you created assist when your forwards suck. There is no reason that Adu and Benny are not on the US Roster as at least substitutes. The work consistency always comes to play. I read a post where a guy said, I’ve seen Kobe score 80 pts in a game, why doesn’t he do that every night then?

  4. B says:

    I disagree. It’s not that they’re not valued because they’re technical and not physical. It’s they’re not producing enough from a creativity standpoint to warrant the fact that they’re not two way players. Plenty of technical players have done well in the league but if you’re not producing you’ve become a liability tactically. It’s the same everywhere else in the world (where the players you mentioned have had mixed success as well).

  5. mo says:

    who? he is a crap.

  6. MMV says:

    From the Revs game I saw, which admittedly wasn’t many, Benny looked class. In fact, his speed of thought and ball movement were head and shoulders above his teammates.In the games I saw, he made an errant passes but in reality it was the correct pass or movement and his teammates didn’t recognize it. Heaps did not do himself or Benny any favors by playing him all over the field. It just didn’t work. Benny and the revs should just part ways. It wasn’t meant to be and that’s not indicative of the player Benny is. Even good players need the right system.

  7. Yaznasty says:

    Porter’s Timbers could use Benny. Or DC United, with an aging DeRo.

  8. Disgruntled K9 says:

    I think Benny’s performances since joining the Revs have been more indicative of not fitting the system and/or being used out of position more than lack of quality. He started the year out wide (not his preferred position) and bounced around the field in Heaps’ system and I think it strained relations between them.

    As someone else mentioned the fact that his footballing brain is miles ahead of most of his teammates doesn’t help either. Also, I believe some of the advanced stats show he was one of the most frequently fouled players in MLS and frankly it disrupts him from getting into any rhythm and gets him angry (which then causes him to lose his cool and start jawing at the ref the rest of the game).

    The Revs are my hometown team and Benny’s always been a favorite, but I think he needs a change of scenery badly…maybe it’ll finally allow him to get back to the form that made him such a super-sub at the 2010 WC (and possibly put him back on JK’s radar).

  9. Paul Dickov says:

    RSL would gladly take him off of the Revs hands for an unhappy Espindola….

  10. jerrry says:

    OR Maybe he had a bad spell at New England bc it sucks to be on the Revolution if your from Cali. The Revs atmosphere makes it so difficult to get motivated to play, especially when all other MLS teams have awesome atmospheres or amazing grass field SOCCER ONLY stadiums.

    Benny is legit, he just needs to move back to the West somewhere and lead from there. Better environment away from the snow and cold and you’ll see a better Benny. One last note; He moved from Europe back to US seeking time but He knew it would suck when he found out that New England picked him up.

    • Juan says:

      NE sucks because it is managed by amateurs from the top down. The owners don’t care about the team, they don’t want to spend money on anything and they’re killing the team with indifference. Can you imagine an owner that chose to attend a regular season Patriots game rather then see his soccer team in a MLS final? It happened here. They give lip service to a SSS but years come and go and nothing happens. They release Steve Nicol only to hire Jay Heaps, with NO coaching experience, to try and turn the team around. Is it any wonder he’s failed? David Beckham himself couldn’t succeed here. Then there’s Benny. I suspect hes difficult to manage because of personality. Good players sometimes are. We know Klinsmann has given up on trying even though he needs a good attacking mid.

      I dont blame Benny but the total chaos that is the Revs. They really need to clean out the whole front office and Heaps before trading away the only star on this team

  11. MikeG says:

    MLS is still a version of NCAA soccer. When MLS teams begin signing there own youth players that focus on technical aspects of the game we will see a higher level of soccer. Drafted NCAA players is hurting the growth of the game (in comparison to the rest of the world). Youth development is the future. Benny Feilhaber played lots of Futsal as a youngster and look what it has done to his skill level.

    • mo says:

      worst msl is run by idiots

    • David JS says:

      I would only say that giving playing time to college guys who aren’t good enough over young guys who came thru as homegrown players is the only scenario where NCAA hurts MLS. And in that scenario, it’s not the NCAA guys hurting MLS, it’s incompetent coaches and front offices. It’s not like they are TRYING to stifle their homegrown players in favor of older but inferior players, they are just too incompetent to realize they’re doing it. It wouldn’t do MLS any good to protect homegrown players by stopping talented college kids from competing for their playing time. Ultimately, when the talent coming thru MLS academies is good enough, we will see less focus on the college draft. But there will always be good players who end up playing college soccer rather than coming thru an academy, it would be detrimental to MLS and US Soccer as a whole if we try and stigmatize and/or alienate them because college soccer “isn’t how the rest of the world does it”.

      • MikeG says:

        Look at what the Bundesliga has done for Jones, Johnson, Williams, Chandler for example. Other non NCAA players: Altidore, Agudelo, Donovan, and Gatt. The NCAA will always be a pipeline of talent. I just do not want to see it as the main pipeline of talent. Times will change in MLS.

        • David JS says:

          +1
          I concur with 100% of this comment.
          Good times are ahead in MLS. The next step is the academies turning out the next generation of MLS.

  12. Nic D "The TX 2 Stepper" says:

    Feilhaber to settle in SEATTLE. You heard it here first.

    I do wish United would make a go for him though.

    Pontius/Dero … up top fed by

    DeLeon/Benny/Boskovic … Then you get

    Korb and Najar flying up the wing to join the attack … that could be awesome!

    • Northzax says:

      Maybe they’re in the market for an out of form Albanian striker? That team would score goals though, that’s for sure. Probably get scored on a lot, too, that midfield is. Frightening defensive liability, even with Kitchen mopping up.

  13. jayboy says:

    I feel like Benny often still has this halo from scoring one amazing goal. If you look at his career, he has never performed at a high level for more than a season. I think he is very skilled, but he turns 28 in January and still doesn’t really have a stretch of even 2 consecutive good seasons. While he has had some bad breaks and joined some bad teams (Derby… ugggh), at the end of the day his job is to perform for his club and he never quite does it. As an American soccer fan, I hope that he finds a situation he can really thrive in, but as a realist, I think he’s just a mediocre player with occasional flashes of brilliance, rather than a brilliant player who just is stuck in the wrong system.

  14. 2tone says:

    I could see Seattle parting ways with Montero and signing Felihaber. Sigi restructures his system to a 4-2-3-1 with Benny at the CAM/secon forward role with Johnson as the main striker up top, Rosales at RW, and Zakuani at LW.

  15. Rex says:

    I think we need to be talking about 1g 2a in 29 games for $400k rather than talking about defensive liability.

  16. PD says:

    I can remember the moments where folks were thinking post Gold Cup/Pre-Confed Cup that MB and Benny were gonna be the next Dempsey/Donovan impact players for the USMNT, with Bradley being a box-to-box field general type and Benny cast in the creative un-locker of defenses role. Thankfully, Bradley is well on his way to delivering on his promise of a few short year ago, but Benny’s just a head scratcher (same could be said for Adu I guess). It’s a real shame how many promising players never seem to get to the summit… Benny’s always been the kind of player that I’d love to see turn it around. Still hoping.

  17. Juan says:

    As a Revs fan, I vote to release Heaps and keep Benny. If Benny doesn’t fit the Revs system, and Im not sure we really have one, get another system that features the best player on this team.

    You don’t start your coaching career as the coach of a MLS team and yet that’s what the Revs tried with Heaps. I’m sure though he hasn’t cost them much in cash but they have slipped another notch lower in the MLS ranking and of course, their disappearing fan base is growing. Heaps isnt working and if he cant manage Benny, get rid of Heaps. You don’t move forward by cutting your most talented player, you build a team around him.

  18. Vic says:

    Its really hard for me to understand players like Brad Davis and Feilhaber. With their skill, if they gave more effort in practice and on the field they could make 2 million a year over in Europe. Instead Davis has been recognized as a 70 min player and Feilhaber kinda lazy. Both making 3-400k per year in MLS.