Wisdom? Revs Run Feilhaber Out To Sporting KC

"I'll tumble for ya....I'll tumble for ya!"


The move was always going to happen this offseason.

Benny Feilhaber–overpaid by the league upon his entrance many would say–hightails it westbound to Sporting KC where coach Peter Vermes will see if he can coax the best out of player who is as feathery on the forward pass as they come but whose form ebbs based upon interest level and personal priority in the attack. Eastbound is some allocation money, Sporting KC’s natural first round pick in the MLS 2014 SuperDraft–likely to be near the end of the round if SKC’s quality of play remain the same and a second round pick in 2015.

Sporting Kansas City acquired midfielder Benny Feilhaber from the New England Revolution on Tuesday in exchange for allocation money, Sporting KC’s natural first round pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, and natural second round pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft.

It may–or may not–speak volumes that Feilhaber couldn’t squeeze himself into a Revs team that was desperate for someone of his services in the middle of the park. Many will laud a very dirty stat, that of “chances created” with Feilhaber as one of the league leaders (46) in the category, to cite Feilhaber’s value and perhaps misuse by Revs’ head man Jay Heaps, however the easy counter is that the Revs performance and record were noticeably improved when Feilhaber wasn’t getting minutes. Did Feilhaber not buy into Heaps system? Likely. Was Heaps system not playing to Feilhaber’s strengths? Also likely.

2005: Benny ... The Early Years

2005: Benny … The Early Years

At least the Revs–who lucked into diminutive midfielder in the allocation draft in August 2011–got and created some value in holding onto Feilhaber for this long.

For Sporting KC, any way you slice the Feilhaber acquisition–barring a contract that isn’t exhorbitant and shouldn’t be more than two-years long–it’s a win. When Graham Zusi went national-teaming last year or Roger Espinoza was an Olympian, the Sporting KC attack shuddered to a halt, not that the attack was exceptionally prodigious when Zusi and Espinoza were on the pitch together by-the-by.

Sporting KC may have sorely lacked finished, but they also lacked anyone who could create in 2012 when teams battened down the hatches on them and forced the dissect them from within SKC attacking third. Vermes team would often find itself resorting to hopeful crosses to Kei Kamara or relying on Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic to go one-v-one to create chances in those scenarios. Myers and Sinovic are solid MLS overlapping fullbacks, but neither is who you want to entrust your primary attack to when the opponent is conceding possession.

For Vermes, Feilhaber gives him the knight on the chessboard.

At one point, TSG openly campaigned outside the belly of the beast for more playing time for Mr. Feilhaber...

At one point, TSG openly campaigned outside the belly of the beast for more playing time for Mr. Feilhaber…

Feilhaber might check in at the top of the midfield 4-3-3 with Zusi being more of  a right midfield/wing maestro. In this role Feilhaber would be available on the outlet or be that incising central midfielder that could spearhead the attack when that opponent bottles it up. Or Vermes could use Feilhaber out to one side. The Californian often found himself pushed out to the right hashmark under coach Bob Bradley when he was in national team form.

Few forget that it was Feilhaber’s insertion just behind Clint Dempsey that ignited the US in their final World Cup game against Ghana in 2010.

Alas, this is now technically Zusi’s role–so Feilhaber out wide right seems occasional at best. Another option is putting the rightfooter into the role Bobby Convey was supposed to own, tucked-in high left. This seems less applicable as well in that Chance Myers is the primary overlapping fullback at Livestrong not Seth Sinovic who prefers to cut in on his right–that, of course, would be cutting into the precise space that Feilhaber would be occupying.

And, finally, an unlikely option is putting Feilhaber in the deep-lying Andrea Pirlo role of non-traditional central defensive midfield. As sure as this writer should be castigated for invoking the name of Feilhaber in concert with Pirlo is as sure as this is unlikely. The CDM role will likely be inhabited by point-and-shoot, search-and-destroy options like Peterson Joseph and ex-Barca man (and impressive upcoming MLS sophomore in this guy’s eyes) Oriol Rosell.

Given Vermes demands of his defenders and his eye for them, it’s about a zero percent chance that Feilhaber was brought into to execute at CDM.


The Revs needed to move Feilhaber and, in waiting until the end of the year when he was out of contract and they still owned his rights, they created more value for themselves. Chances are there were a few but not an abundance of suitors for Feilhaber’s services and holding out for a better deal would have perpetuated a less than ideal situation while potential bidders folded their cards as they found other options. Whereas the Revs were locked into Shalrie Joseph and few if any truly promising youngsters less than 20 months ago, now the Revs boast some extra cash kitty, an oleo of promising youngsters and some meaningful draft picks (not to mention Jerry Bengston, a striker who they can likely sell-on and who, in this writer’s opinion, will challenge for the Golden Boot in 2013). Quite a turnaround for their front office.

It’s an excellent gambit for Sporting KC who relied too heavily on bypassing the midfield last year when Graham Zusi wasn’t firing. It’s also quite a coup because Sporting KC failed to secure a replacement for Roger Espinoza in season, meaning they either knew they could get a deal like this done or they were willing to take the risks of what is still a buyer’s market.

19 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by dikranovich on 2012/12/11 at 5:51 PM

    the team that is really going to come out well with this move is the us national team. if the stars are aligned, feilhaber will have a huge year and get back in the mix and get into the middle with junior, for what should have been our central pairing for the last five years.

    my take is that back in 08 adu and feilhaber got into it at olympic training and nowak sided with adu and feilhaber has been dealing with the consequences ever since.


  2. Posted by Crow on 2012/12/12 at 5:02 PM

    But will Benny ever stop playing his ‘baby games’ (Taylor Twellman) on the field?


  3. Posted by dude on 2012/12/12 at 6:42 PM

    I’m confused. Surely you don’t mean that Feilhaber played as a winger in the World Cup? He didn’t. He was a central playmaker who replaced Robbie Findley (thank God). IMO, he never looked comfortable on the wing, he doesn’t have the speed or the drive. Zusi at least has the motor to play on the right, Feilhaber is purely possession oriented.


    • Posted by dikranovich on 2012/12/12 at 7:16 PM

      for some players it really takes years before the defense creeps into their game. it took donovan a long time before he started playing acceptable defense. feilhaber might have learned a little defense in new england, and that might just be what propels him to a higher level during his time at sKc, and with regards to his future mens team aspirations.


    • Posted by mbw on 2012/12/12 at 8:04 PM

      He was nominally the left wing/outside mid with Dempsey (who had started in that position) pushed up to second striker/CAM in a 4-2-3-1, or somesuch. But it was definitely a lopsided formation, with BF pinched in and played much more centrally than Donovan did.


  4. Posted by dikranovich on 2012/12/12 at 8:06 PM

    eddie vedder sure has the midas touch when it comes to performing at tribute concerts. first 9/11 he played with neil young, now tonight he is singing comfortably numb with roger waters. hopefully feilhaber can channel his inner eddie vedder.


  5. Posted by SMH on 2012/12/13 at 10:35 AM

    1 – Feilhaber played left midfield, not right, when he came on for Bradley in the World Cup. Same with the Confed Cup, safe for the final when he had to play centrally b/c of Bradley’s suspension.

    2 – Sinovic is left footed, and led the league in left-footed crosses.

    So… a lot of this doesn’t make much sense. You need to do better research.


    • Posted by SMH on 2012/12/13 at 10:37 AM

      Oh, and Peterson Joseph is not a “point and shoot” midfielder. He’s a timekeeper out there, reminiscent of Ned Grabavoy.

      Really, really sloppy effort from you.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/12/14 at 1:19 PM

      Glad you showed up. Mistake on Sinovic, though he does cut in often.
      Incorrect on Feilhaber, both he and Landon and Clint moved around multiple times on the field.


  6. Posted by dth on 2012/12/13 at 12:37 PM

    Porter traded for Brian Gallego’s rights and apparently went after Wil Trapp’s rights: http://www.thecrew.com/news/2012/12/keeping-trapp-black-gold-was-priority-bliss

    Man loves him some Akron. I’m really intrigued by the Caleb Porter experiment next year (well, maybe the year after more.)

    In terms of most intriguing offseasons, would go:
    1. SKC
    2. Portland

    Come on DC, make some signings. Losing Boskovic was a real 😦 😦 :(.


  7. Modric for example.

    Just thought I’d throw another ridiculous comparison.


  8. Posted by dikranovich on 2012/12/16 at 7:32 AM

    result of the day: corinthians over the big spenders. great victory for world football, and if junior can get three points v. his old club and deuce can bag a couple from his wide midfield spot, our spirits will be lifted on this sunday morning.


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