Skip to content

The Benny Feilhaber Conundrum: Has Peter Vermes finally solved the puzzle?

Dec 5, 2013, 12:42 AM EDT

Benny Feilhaber-2

This postseason, we’ve seen it click for Benny Feilhaber in a way we’ve never seen before. We saw his talent for the U.S. Men’s National Team when he developed into a type of super-sub under Bob Bradley, but in Germany, the Premier League, and Denmark, he never had the same impact. When the Brazil-born midfielder came back to Major League Soccer with the New England Revolution in 2011, he had the talent to be an impact player, but it’s only now, one year and one stop later, that the 28-year-old’s found a platform to display his skills. Has Sporting Kansas City finally solved the Benny Feilhaber puzzle?

If so, they’ve only done so over the last three games. Opening the playoffs in New England, Kansas City left the former U.S. international on the bench in a 2-1 loss. It was only after Laurence Olum was lost to injury that Feilhaber got a chance, seizing his opportunity with a standout performance in Sporting’s 3-1 victory. His interception of Matt Reis’ 113th minute outlet and subsequent cross to Claudio Bieler created the round-winning goal, capping a night in which he created six scoring chances. Given the performance and the circumstances, it was Feilhaber’s best game since returning to Major League Soccer.

Like the rest of his team, Feilhaber went quiet two days later in Houston, but in the Eastern Conference final’s return leg, he replicated his Revolution performance. After a slow start, Feilhaber ended the night with six more created chances and an assist, his second half scoop for Dom Dwyer against creating the tie-sealing goal.

“Obviously those things get magnified,” Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes said of Feilhaber’s game-winning assists. “What I would say is that [in] the intensity of the matches, he’s risen with that as well, which is a good thing.”

But where has all this come from? Why the sudden turnaround? Has Feilhaber just stepped up when his team’s needed him most? Undoubtedly yes, but whether that’s coincidence or a function of something that’s changed since the middle of the season is the question.

Acquired this offseason for draft picks, Feilhaber played fewer minutes than he had in either of his seasons in New England, at points left out of Kansas City’s team entirely.While he provided valuable depth in August and September, starting eight consecutive games, Feilhaber only played 90 minutes once. In October, Feilhaber dressed four times but only saw 45 minutes of action, a usage pattern that persisted into the first game of the playoffs.

source:

Benny Feilhaber has been capped 40 times by the U.S. Men’s National Team and was a key part of the team that made the second round at South Africa 2010. Since moving to Major League Soccer, the now 28-year-old has 8 goals and 13 assists in 79 regular season games.

“I was down,“ Feilhaber said this week, talking about his struggles to maintain a consistent place in the team. “I felt like I was fighting for my job. And in some ways, I was losing.”

It was a huge turnaround from the beginning of the season when Feilhaber started the team’s first nine games, but that was back when expectations may have been greater. Now the pecking order seems clear. Graham Zusi is the clear focal point of this team – the man who orchestrates the attack. Instead of trying to find a way to help distribute the burden, Feilhaber is an obvious complementary piece. When he has room to create, it’s often because Zusi has opened it up. Feilhaber can worry about pulling the trigger, not shouldering the load.

“What he’s getting better at is not slowing the game down too much,” Vermes said of Feilhaber’s improvement. “Because we still want to go, and that’s a recognition thing.”

The irony there is Feilhaber’s value in the open, when he elects to “go.” When he gets out in the open — as he did so often with the national team; as he did for the deciding goal against Houston — Feilhaber can pick out a pass at an all-star level, often displaying that tantalizing skill which leaves you wondering when and how somebody will figure out how to get the most out of Benny Feilhaber.

For a man who was always at his best in spurts for the national team, this may be his best role. As he showed against New England and Houston, Feilhaber can be decisive in moments, but when asked to be the guy to control the minute-by-minute (as he was in New England), he often leaves you asking for more.

Now, filling a role that complements Zusi, Feilhaber is left to be his best without trying to be what he’s not. And by letting him do that, Peter Vermes may have solved the Benny Feilhaber conundrum.

Latest Posts
  1. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Newcastle United

    Jul 30, 2015, 12:10 PM EDT

    newcastlecrest

    Last season was a complete disaster for Newcastle. Can Steve McClaren turn things around for the Magpies?

  2. Thursday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Lambert to West Brom, Balotelli back to Italy

    Jul 30, 2015, 11:02 AM EDT

    Hull City v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    Liverpool could lose two strikers, while Mario Gomez is on his way to Besiktas.

  3. Chung Mong-joon to run for FIFA presidency, calls out Blatter and Platini

    Jul 30, 2015, 10:06 AM EDT

    Chung Mong-Joon Speaks About Possible FIFA President Candidacy Getty Images

    The South Korean billionaire is looking to become the new president of FIFA, and he had some choice words for his rivals.

  4. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Manchester United

    Jul 30, 2015, 9:10 AM EDT

    manchester.united.crest

    Heading into Louis van Gaal’s second season at Old Trafford, trophies are on the minds of everyone in Manchester.

  5. Report: Sergio Ramos to sign extension with Real Madrid until 2020

    Jul 30, 2015, 8:15 AM EDT

    FBL-ESP-LIGA-REAL MADRID-MALAGA Getty Images

    The defender had been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United, but it looks like he’ll be staying at Madrid.

  6. MLS All Stars 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur: Kaka powers MLS to win

    Jul 29, 2015, 11:15 PM EDT

    2015 AT&T Major League Soccer All-Star game at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on July 29, 2015 in Commerce City, Colorado. Getty Images

    Kaka and David Villa scored for the All Stars, which built on last year’s 2-1 win against Bayern Munich.

  7. Manchester United 0-2 PSG: Early goals lead French champs past Red Devils

    Jul 29, 2015, 11:09 PM EDT

    CHICAGO, IL - JULY 29:  Phil Jones and Bastian Schweinsteiger of Manchester United in action with  Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Paris Saint Germain during the International Champions Cup 2015 match between Manchester United and Paris Saint Germain at Soldier Field on July 29, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Tom Purslow/Man Utd via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Halftime substitutions including Andreas Pereira gave some life to United, but the Red Devils still couldn’t find the back of the net.

  8. WATCH: Carli Lloyd with another screamer, this time in NWSL play

    Jul 29, 2015, 11:01 PM EDT

    LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS -- Episode 236 -- Pictured: Carlie Lloyd of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup Champion U.S. Women's National Team, during an interview on July 27, 2015 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images) Getty Images

    The 86th minute tally came moments after FCKC had drawn level at 2-2.

  9. Jaime Penedo and L.A. Galaxy surprisingly decide to call it quits

    Jul 29, 2015, 8:39 PM EDT

    LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 07:  Goalkeeper Jaime Penedo #18 of the Los Angeles Galaxy makes a save in the second half of regulation time during 2014 MLS Cup at StubHub Center on December 7, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The Galaxy defeated the Revolution 2-1. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Could this be on account of overseas interest, or is he just ready to go closer to home?

  10. UEFA Champions League wrap: Celtic escapes through Boyata; Ajax draws

    Jul 29, 2015, 7:14 PM EDT

    GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JULY 29:  Dedryck  Boyata of Celtic scores against FK Qarabag during the UEFA Champions League Third Qualifying Round 1st Leg match between Celtic and FK Qarabag at Celtic Park on July 29, 2015 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The Azerbaijani champions nearly walked out of Celtic Park with a deadlock, but Boyata’s second goal in as many games did the trick.

  11. Men in Blazers podcast: Chelsea’s John Terry joins Rog and Davo

    Jul 29, 2015, 6:18 PM EDT

    meninblazers

    Rog and Davo pod from Chelsea vs. Barcelona at FedExField in Landover, Maryland. Chelsea captain John Terry guests.

  12. Swiss star Barnetta moves to MLS; Orlando City signs a pair of Europeans

    Jul 29, 2015, 4:46 PM EDT

    philadelphiaunion.com philadelphiaunion.com

    Tranquillo Barnetta is set to join Maurice Edu in the Philadelphia Union’s engine room, as the 30-year-old Bundesliga veteran makes his move on a free transfer.

  13. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Manchester City

    Jul 29, 2015, 3:55 PM EDT

    manchester-city-fc-logo

    How different will City’s lineup look at the end of August? It’s hard to project anything without that knowledge, but we’ll make an attempt.

  14. Hull City loses a pair of valuable players to the Premier League

    Jul 29, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    Hull City v Norwich City - Premier League Getty Images

    Robbie Brady and James Chester are leaving the Championship side for new homes back in England’s top flight.

  15. VIDEO: PST Extra – What should we expect from the Premier League’s promoted three?

    Jul 29, 2015, 2:16 PM EDT

    NorwichCity Getty Images

    JPW discusses the chances that Norwich City, Bournemouth, and Watford have of staying up next season.

  16. Arsenal goalkeeper Szczesny officially off to Roma on season-long loan

    Jul 29, 2015, 12:43 PM EDT

    Szczesny Getty Images

    After losing his place at The Emirates last year, the 25-year-old will take a crack at proving himself again in Italy.

  17. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Liverpool

    Jul 29, 2015, 11:40 AM EDT

    LiverpoolLogo

    Can Rodgers and the Reds bounce back to finish in the top four and win some silverware this season? His job might depend on it.

  18. Jose Mourinho hits back at Rafael Benitez’s wife; he “destroyed” Inter Milan, needs new diet

    Jul 29, 2015, 10:37 AM EDT

    UEFA Champions League: Liverpool v Chelsea Getty Images

    Mr. Mourinho and Mrs. Benitez are having a verbal battle via the press. This will not end well.

Featured video

Analyzing PL clubs in the transfer window