New England Soccer Today

Cobi Talks USMNT, Cameron & Feilhaber

Former U.S. National Team midfielder Cobi Jones was in Boston last week to discuss sports injury prevention. (Photo: Sports Injury Prevention Program sponsored by DePuy Mitek)

Few people know the national team scene better than someone who’s accumulated over 150 caps in his international career.

Former U.S. Men’s National Team veteran Cobi Jones was in Boston last week on behalf of Sports Injury Prevention Program sponsored by DePuy Mitek to conduct a free clinic with area youth to highlight the importance of injury-prevention. Jones is one of many national team personalities – including Alex Morgan, Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellman – to lend his expertise to parents, coaches and young athletes in conjunction with the program.

While he was in town, the former national team stalwart offered his take on the current state of affairs with the national team, especially in the wake of the squad’s qualifying scare in Jamaica earlier this month.

“I think the game in Jamaica may have been a little bit of an eye-opener for Jurgen,” Jones said via phone last week. “With respect to qualifying in CONCACAF, it’s a very different animal than (it is) in Europe. There aren’t always quality fields, quality stadiums, or quality hotels. Wherever you go, it’s kind of a free for all at times.”

Although Jones admitted he wasn’t “worried” about the U.S.’s qualifying trek in the wake of their stunning 2-1 loss in Kingston, he did point out that it may signal that Klinsmann may have much more work ahead of him.

“With such a limited amount of time, you really need to get a solid 16-17 player core,” Jones said. “You don’t want to keep bringing in and bringing out different players, especially as you’re going through this process.”

One of the players whom Jones believes should remain a part of that core is a name familiar to local soccer fans.

According to Jones, one of the bright spots of the national team in recent months has been Attleboro, Mass. native Geoff Cameron, who’s recent performances against Mexico and Jamaica has established a spot for him on the squad.

“I think he’s settled in there well,” Jones said. “He has all the aspects that it takes and I think he’s proven himself many times and will continue to prove himself to be one of the best the U.S. has (in the back).”

Cameron, who was drafted by Houston out of Rhode Island in 2008, spent six seasons with the Dynamo before he was transferred to Stoke City in July.

But during his time in MLS, the Cameron was called upon to fill a variety of roles – something that Jones believes has made him a better player.

“To be able to move around in a variety of different positions, it means that you have a good understanding of the game, tactically,” Jones said. “Now, wherever he ends up permanently, I think he’ll do a good job because he has the understanding of what every other position on the field has to do.”

Jones can also relate to Cameron’s current situation as an American in a new league and new country. The former UCLA Bruin played for Coventry City in 1994-95, and offered some insight on what it takes to make a smooth adjustment.

“Settle in a quickly as possible into the culture and let it be home for you,” Jones said. “That’s the most important thing. Make sure you understand that that’s home. The best way to succeed is to immerse yourself in the culture, and get your mentality set that this is your life now.”

While Jones certainly believes that Cameron has a promising future in front, he also commented on another player who once played a major part in the national team’s plans.

Two years ago, current Revolution midfielder Benny Feilhaber was a regular call-up during the Bob Bradley regime and was a member of the 2010 World Cup roster.

However, once Klinsmann succeeded Bradley in July 2011, Feilhaber has only seen a single call-up, a Jan. 21 friendly against Venezuela in Glendale, Ariz. Making matters worse, Feilhaber, who’s only recorded a goal and two assists in 26 games this season, has been left off the starting XI in four of the Revolution’s five games.

With that in mind, Jones alluded to what a player in Feilhaber’s current situation may need to do to get back on the radar.

“Any player is better served (being) on a team that’s successful,” Jones said. “That’s just a fact of the game. When the team is successful, and the team is winning, people are going to be like ‘why are they winning?’”

“Now, if you have a team that’s less successful and is losing a lot of games, then no one’s going to pay attention, they’re going to be like, ‘Yeah, OK, they must not be that good.’ That in turn will make people think those players must not be that good. It’s really important to be part of a winning organization.”

With the U.S. already in the midst of World Cup qualifying, Jones believes that time may be running out for Feilhaber to re-establish himself on the national team scene before Brazil ’14 arrives.

“He’s definitely got to look at his options,” Jones said. “You’ve seen it with some other players in the league that make moves to get somewhere else.”

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  1. Mat

    September 26, 2012 at 11:39 am

    I totally agree with Cobi on Benny’s situation. Doesn’t look good..especially when he’s not even starting for a crappy team.

  2. John

    September 26, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    The Revs would benefit from getting rid of him. He can be a valuable asset to many MLS teams, and if the Revs play their cards right, they can get a significant return for him. Obviously he is a good player, and I was thrilled to have him fall to us, but between our crowded midfield and Feilhaber’s ego, I can’t wait to see him go. He could have really helped us this year from a leadership/experience standpoint, but dropped the ball. A change of scenery (let’s face it, he re-signed with the league with the intent of going back to SoCal) would benefit both parties.

  3. Brian

    September 26, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    First of all, a big thank you for the interview, it was fantastic. Please keep it up! It is articles like this along with coverage of other leagues and quality comments from clearly educated readers that makes me keep coming back here more than anywhere else. It is too bad NE Soccer today wasn’t around for the heyday of LASA. Even, in the middle and late 80’s when it was supposedly past its prime there was some beautiful soccer played (albeit being admittedly biased) and even better as I understand in the years prior to that. Perhaps with greater coverage the financial ruin would have been adverted and it would be at that level today. (Ever consider a series of articles and interviews chronicling the history of soccer in Southern NE?)

    Sorry to digress, onto Benny: I am a big fan of his since his introduction to the USMNT. I think he is actually exactly the type of player they need, when he is at his best. I also feel he won’t sniff the pitch for the Nats until he leaves New England. I don’t think it has to do with attitude or ego or even being on a losing team, although all those things can’t help his cause. What differentiates him and makes him valuable is also what hurts him the most, his creativity in distribution. It is reliant on making a well weighted ball in tight spaces. If you look at his most consistent and effective performances, he more than any other Revs player, seems to perform better away from home on natural grass. I don’t think his game is suited to the inconsistencies of playing half on natural grass and half on field turf. It is not to excuse his attitude but when you look at the frustration, it is always after a bad pass too heavily weighted or unpredictable bounce for someone to get on the end of, I think even if the Revs were winning it would be hard for JK to call him in as a result of these types of inconsistent performances. Just my 2 Cents!

    • Brian O'Connell

      September 26, 2012 at 10:04 pm

      Hey Brian,
      Thanks for the praise. Taking into account the sport’s landscape around here in the 80s, it’s quite likely our focus here would’ve been LASA, LASA and more LASA. Without question. I truly wish I could go back and see what the action was like back then. I’ve definitely heard the stories – who knows? If we find the time during the offseason, we just may do a mini-series chronicling the various leagues that took root right here in NE. I’d be particularly interested in doing something on LASA, as well as LUSA.

  4. Chris B

    September 26, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Yeah he’s gotta go. It will benefit him as a player and we’ll lose a player who is now a sub and (hopefully) gain a quality, veteran defender in the process.

    The downside is the impact on the fans. A lot of fans still consider Benny one of their favorites and after the Shalire trade, this may increase the negativity among some fans. I’d like to think fans, at this point though, would understand/support the trading of Feilhaber.

    Because of injuries/international duty I’m almost certain Benny will start and go 90 against Houston. This will show us if he’s ready to bring it or ready to go.

  5. rick sewall

    September 26, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    One could ague that artificial turf has really hurt Benny’s game. On the turf it is very difficult to do his specialty- the penetrating through pass. If it’s not absolutely perfectly weighted it will go over the end line. Years ago the Tea Men had a winger who had a similar problem,but it was on the dribble.I also sense that Benny’s attitude has improved. Is this true? If so, I credit the coach. Anyway, I think Benny has to add another strong element to his game in addition to his passing talent to get another shot with the national team. Shooting? Playing like Paul Scholes? Who knows.

  6. rick sewall

    September 26, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    Maybe Benny could do a Nobby Stiles imitation and become a defensive midfielder. If you don’t know about Stiles, google him.

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