Feilhaber developing into Sporting KC’s most consistent performer

Benny Feilhaber

Photo by ISIPhotos.com

By DAN KARELL

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Sporting Kansas City have been rocked so much by suspensions, injuries, and international call-ups this season that they’ve played 19 different lineups in each of their 19 MLS matches.

Throughout the turnover and flux, there’s remained one constant in the Sporting KC lineup: Benny Feilhaber.

The 29-year-old midfielder has played in all but one league match for the club this season and has carried over the strong form he displayed at the end of the 2013 campaign. Feilhaber’s talent was on display on Wednesday evening in Columbus, as he set up the opening goal and scored one himself, a dipping drive that caught the underside of the bar in the 93rd minute of the match to lift Sporting KC to a 2-1 win over the Crew.

“He’s probably been our most consistent player all season, he’s been very very good,” said Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes. “I’m happy that his play has become extremely consistent and he has realized if he just works hard, does the things that he does, his talent proves itself on the field game in and game out. From that perspective, its good for him, its great for the team, and everybody wins on that one.”

It wasn’t always so rosy in Kansas City for Feilhaber though, as he struggled initially to adjust to Vermes’ demanding training sessions. Over time, Feilhaber was able to find a groove within the team and find his place, leading to improved results.

“This might be my best, consistent form that I’ve been in probably for my whole career,” Feilhaber admitted. “I think I’ve had a lot of high moments and low moments in my career, and I’ve worked really hard since I got into Kansas City. Really, it’s not even about me wanting (the consistency), it’s more about it being forced upon me, because you’re not going to play if you’re not doing the things that Peter asks of you here. It’s really important and its helped me get that consistency.

“I think even middle to the end of last year, and then obviously this season, I felt really comfortable with my fitness and that I’ve been able to put a good showing each and every game for 90 minutes. When you’re able to do that, obviously the special plays come out. I was lucky to have that opportunity tonight and was able to put one in.”

Last season, Feilhaber came up huge for the team in their postseason push, which ended up with Kansas City hosting and winning the 2013 MLS Cup final. Feilhaber provided two assists in the difficult four-match gauntlet as well as other contributions that weren’t lost on his teammates.

“If you’ve watched our team since late last season, I think Benny’s definitely been a catalyst to the way that we play,” midfielder Jacob Peterson said.

Feilhaber’s teammate Matt Besler has watched the Brazilian-born midfielder change his game to fit into the team’s style and philosophy since Feilhaber was acquired in December 2012. Feilhaber has almost always been used as an attacking midfielder by his previous teams, and he’s a player that possesses good passing technique and the vision to find his teammates in the box. But since arriving in Kansas City, Feilhaber has had to pick up the defensive side of the game.

Playing in a demanding three-man midfield, Feilhaber needs to play almost as a box-to-box midfielder. It’s a different style than he was used to, but Feilhaber has put his head down and managed to fit perfectly into what Vermes wants to see from his midfielders.

“Benny’s been great for us (this season),” Besler said. “On both sides of the ball, he understands his position on this team, and he’s really stepped up as a leader too. When he plays like he did tonight and he’s contributing in and around the box, that’s huge for us and that’s a Benny that we love.”

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30 Responses to Feilhaber developing into Sporting KC’s most consistent performer

  1. Andy in Atlanta says:

    Probably should have been int he World Cup squad… if we were not going to play Mixx

    • ryan says:

      Agreed.

    • FreeStateSKC says:

      I can understand Klinsmann being nervous about taking Benny without seeing him get very many reps with the national team but we certainly could have used a player that’s confident in possession, makes smart decisions with the ball, and can make a creative play when it’s needed. Pretty much exactly what he would bring. Oh, and has previous WC experience.

      I know it’s killing Revs fans to hear this but he is absolutely bringing his top level game every night for SKC. Really fun to watch.

    • Dawwilly says:

      +1

    • Peaton says:

      Totally. Even with Mixx. Might have played better in the advanced role than Bradley, who then could have anchored.

    • GW says:

      Easy for you to say.

      Benny has, for the majority of his career, over promised and under delivered.

      Had he gone to Brazil it would be hard to say which Benny would have showed up..

  2. White Kix says:

    Yet he he’s not good enough to play for the second worst possesion team in the World Cup? He is one of the keys for the US to play like Klinsmann always says he wants us to play. Too bad JK is such a hypocrite.

    • CO says:

      According to who?

    • quozzel says:

      How heck can you get commitment to a standard without demanding it?

      Benny F has always been skilled on the ball – but he’s also always been a bit of a diva and a one-way player. He snarls at teammates, acts petulant when things don’t go his way, and he never, ever tracked back on D…before Vermes.

      The POINT Klinsmann was making this World Cup was – and players heard it loud and clear even if fans didn’t – was that he expected German-level commitment. He expected two-way players who would train their guts out, cover ground up and down the field, and run other teams into the ground. He made a point of cutting Landon Donovan (who is increasingly one-way at this stage in his career), and never gave a sniff to other “skilled” guys (like Feilhaber, like Adu) with poor defensive habits.

      Benny finally sounds like he’s gotten the message at Sporting KC…which could well get him the next WC if he keeps doing what he’s doing…he’ll only be 33, and Klinsmann has never been shy about recycling older players who have fallen out of favor if they’re committed.

      You can’t get a higher standard, without first demanding it, consistently – and cutting those who do not comply. Say what you want about this iteration in the USMNT, it was pretty obvious Klinsmann went for heart, work rate, and work ethic above any other consideration – including skill.

      The second Benny F demonstrates he’s got that consistency, I’d bet you he’ll be back in Klinsmann’s good graces. Benny’s got the skill.

      • Vlad says:

        Im so glad we had Brad Davis on the roster who is everything BUT a 2 way player

      • beachbum says:

        quozzel, I appreciate what you’re trying to say but some is simply off target imo

        LD is more of a defensive player than ever this year! from the game in Portland right before the call ups in May to a week ago vs. RSL when he was adjusted by Arena to mark Beckerman in the 2nd half after Beckerman had done whatever he wanted in the first, to last night’s 2nd half sub role where he was the rabbit pressuring the ball across the midfield. he’s done them all willingly it looked like; when you’re played on the flank or in the diamond somewhere in midfield you must be a defender

        Benny tracked back for Bradley all the time (as did Dempsey and Donovan on the wings) long before Vermes was anywhere in the picture; everyone had to defend under Bradley and did, including Benny

        Jurgen looking for heart and work ethic and all of that means he valued the exact same things as his predecessors, the same folks he said he was different than and would improve upon thru change; seems like instead he realized that those who came before him were onto something and he went in a similar direction

        anyway, would Benny have been the usable option that it turned out Mix was not? we’ll never know. we know that MB was put into that role and Mix only rode pine

        • GW says:

          beachbum,

          That’s all well and good about Benny’s time with BB ( and he did have his ups and downs, probably more downs, for BB).

          However, for JK it should be how you play for him that counts, not what you did four years ago for another team and another manager.

          When Benny played for JK he was, as is usual with the wayward genius, inconsistent.

          As I remember it Benny was not doing well with Vermes leading up to the USMNT camp where LD was sacrificed so I don’t have a problem with leaving Benny off the 23.

          Now I would not have minded JK taking him either but he didn’t

  3. loosek says:

    Benny’s form has gone pretty much downhill ever since his wonder strike against El Tri. He started buying the hype, then got beat up in his stint at Derby, then lost the plot. Herr Coach saw a guy who didn’t make the best out of a bad situation and rightly judged him to not be of the proper mental caliber to play in a World Cup. Jeez, he’s only NOW getting singled out for being a good MLS player. That should have happened a few years ago. I used to absolutely LOVE this guy, but he faded.

    • ATX_Colin says:

      so true

    • Bobb says:

      This is nonsense, he was great at the 2010 World Cup, the #1 attacking option off the bench. Check the US team’s goals scored vs goals allowed both with and without Feilhaber at that tournament.

      Also, yes his career got derailed, but it’s been back on track for over TWO YEARS now. There was no excuse for Klinsmann to not give him a better look, especially considering our dearth of other attacking midfield options.

      • Andy in Atlanta says:

        +1

      • loosek says:

        I completely agree. In fact, I always thought he should have seen more of the field in WC 2010 than he did. He was absolutely dangerous. Problem is, he hasn’t done squat since then. It’s like he took the lack of playing time in WC 2010 as an insult and decided to start pouting instead of getting better. I would LOVE to see Benny wear the shirt, but it’s past him now.

        • GW says:

          Ridiculous. Revisonist history.

          Under BB , Benny went from being the next great thing to being just a regular , then to disappearing for a while ,then to being a second half, swiss army knife sub somewhere in the 20-30 minute range.

          He did well in the 2010 World Cup but in limited action, which was limited because , well, Benny showed himself to only be good for 20-30 minutes after which he faded. Either that or the other team figured him out and shut him down.

          So please cut down on the hyperbole. Benny had the potential to be great and wound up, to date, being somewhere between mediocre and inconsistent.

    • Diego's Maradoughnuts says:

      Ugh. Every diay we’re going to do this, aren’t we? Thinking maybe around day 450-500, we may finally have run through every possible player that could’ve been included/excluded against Belgium, and produced a comprehensive list of bullets for each showing exactly how this decision provides iron-clad proof of JK’s genius/cluelessness.. With any luck, we will conclude that the only real defensible CM tandem was Barry Bannan and George Mikan.

  4. ATX_Colin says:

    Man you guys act Like benny has never been capped. This reminds me of when Sacha or anyone (with seemingly technical ability) for that matter gets a good run of form you proclaim there are they key to us playing a more possession or pretty form of soccer. Picture Benny getting train wrecked in the middle of the park while trying to be cute with the ball. Benny is a great player but he would not turn us into a possession based team. benny has been very inconsisitent with the USMNT and his club over the years.

    • Michael says:

      Despite your claims, he managed to turn in 3 very solid performances at the 2010 World Cup off the bench, and he was a real difference maker the year before at the Confederations Cup (witness our 2nd goal against Spain in the semifinals). I have no doubt that Feilhaber would have helped us at the World Cup, particularly deployed in a pinched in left-sided midfield role, as Jermaine Jones played against Ghana and as Feilhaber often was deployed off the bench under Bob Bradley.

      • Jaime Velez says:

        I agree with Michael, too bad Klinsman does/did not.

      • Landy Cakes says:

        I wondered why he wasn’t included as well. Certainly over davis. I guess Mixx got his spot.

        • Brian S. says:

          You can ask why a number of players didn’t get a spot over Davis. Benny included. That will go down as one of the more questionable roster call ups in history IMO

          • Landy Cakes says:

            I remember him being crucial in 2010 and then he disappeared. I never knew why he didn’t earn a look. He wasn’t even in the gold cup roster I don’t think.

            • White Kix says:

              Bradley called him into the 2011 Gold Cup, but he was injured, so Adu took his spot. After that, Klinsmann came in and Benny was forgotten.

      • GW says:

        Michael,

        4 years ago, for a different team and a different manager is an eternity in soccer.

        4 years ago Diego Forlan was a superstar for Uruguay. Did you notice that he played for Uruguay in 2014? I almost didn’t notice, he was that anonymous.

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