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Looking at Tuesday’s Benny Feilhaber trade to Sporting KC

Dec 11, 2012, 5:19 PM EDT

New England Revolution v Montreal Impact Getty Images

Sporting Kansas City is becoming quite the refuge for talented players on the outs with the U.S. national team program.

A year ago coach Peter Vermes picked up Bobby Convey on the cheap. The former left-sided U.S. national team attacker (who never made much of an imprint at Livestrong Sporting Park) had worn out his welcome at San Jose.

Now Vermes and Sporting KC have added New England Revolution playmaker Benny Feilhaber, who has become one of the truly mercurial figures around domestic soccer. New England received a 2014 first-round draft pick, a 2015 second round selection plus allocation money.

Few would question Feilhaber’s ability; he has passing skills and vision that almost every MLS club would find useful. So why was New England willing to part with the 2010 U.S. World Cup veteran? And why did he fall so decisively out of the Revolution picture? (He wasn’t even a starter for much of the 2012 stretch, and that for a non-playoff team.)

While his technical skills are more than sufficient, his ability to assimilate – whether that’s on the field or in the locker room or some combination thereof – can now be fairly and openly called into question. Combined with Feilhaber’s estrangement from the national team, there’s no other conclusion to be reached.

Convey had some of the same problems, although his shortcomings were more transparent. Convey went public, for instance, with expressions of displeasure over former national team coach Bob Bradley and later over San Jose boss Frank Yallop.

Feilhaber has never been guilty of the same kind of public venting; his issues of discontent or failure to blend have been more internal and harder to pinpoint – although whispers have always existed that he’s just not the easiest of teammates to be around.

Around Livestrong, Feilhaber could be a swell replacement for Roger Espinoza, who will leave for Wigan in January. Feilhaber is not the same player; he’s more technical, slightly less box-to-box and surely less ferocious in the tackle. But Vermes can always tweak the midfield mix around Feilhaber and Graham Zusi, and the 4-3-3 around Livestrong can flourish anew.

On the other side, New England and manager Jay Heaps got quite a bit for a player they didn’t want around Gillette Stadium, anyway.

SKC could get a lot from the relationship if Vermes can tame Feilhaber’s less desirable properties. If not, the first Feilhaber-Convey-Vermes drama cannot be far away.

  1. mkbryant3 - Dec 11, 2012 at 5:37 PM

    Sporting KC Raiders! MLS’s collection of bad boys? Ok, maybe that’s going too far.

    Man, I just love saying the name “Zusi”. Zzzzzussssiii. It just rolls right off the tongue….errr….teeth.

    • bobinkc - Dec 11, 2012 at 7:41 PM

      Don’t feel too bad, mk. The first SKC game I went to, the team set up for a corner with Zusi doing the kick. The crowd burst into loud boos as he walked toward the corner. It took me about 5 or 6 games before I figured out they were all yelling “ZZZOOOOOO!” Now I can yell “ZZZZOOOO” with the best of them.

  2. mkbryant3 - Dec 11, 2012 at 6:33 PM

    Ok, a little off topic, but I had to repost this from deadspin, as I just KNOW we soccer-obsessed have been in this situation many times:

    Sometimes I have to watch football games on tape delay because my children get in the way of everything. And the most anxious moments of my life come when I turn on the TV and attempt to begin watching my game without seeing the live game footage that’s currently going on. I hit MUTE and LIST immediately while the screen is warming up, and then put a hand out to block out the quadrant of the screen where the live action is playing while I have to find my game in the list. SO VERY TREACHEROUS. Whenever I **** this up and accidentally see the live score of the game, I want to kill myself. Life these days is just so HARD, you know?

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