New England Soccer Today

It’s About Time

Benny Feilhaber earned his first call into National Team camp under Jurgen Klinsmann on Thursday (Photo: Chris Aduama/

Benny Feilhaber has to feel relieved.

Since Jurgen Klinsmann’s appointment as U.S. Men’s National Team manager in July, the Revolution midfielder had inexplicably failed to make it onto any of the new coach’s call up lists. Until Thursday.

With a pair of friendlies slotted for late-January, Klinsmann finally called in Feilhaber for National Team camp, which is scheduled to start on Jan. 3 in Phoenix, Ariz. and run through Jan. 26. The announcement of Feilhaber’s invitation marks the end of months uncertainty regarding the talented midfielder’s standing with the National Team.

Although the midfield maestro never complained – at least publicly – of getting snubbed over the summer and through the fall, you had to wonder whether Feilhaber was beginning to ponder what it would take to get another call into camp. Perhaps with good reason.

After all, the last time he got the nod was last May, back when then-manager Bob Bradley was assembling his Gold Cup roster. But an ankle injury suffered against the Galaxy a week before the tournament brushed that opportunity away.

Shortly after the Gold Cup – which saw the Americans underachieve despite reaching the final – Bradley was relieved of his duties. Enter Klinsmann, who brought with him a decidedly different style and approach to the job.

Immediately after taking the reins, the new manager tinkered. And then tinkered some more. Instead of calling up proven veterans – i.e. Feilhaber – Klinsmann recruited new players all the while Feilhaber kept putting together a solid case for a camp invitation.

Despite his encouraging performances in New England – especially after he was re-assigned to the central midfield – the Brazilian-born playmaker didn’t hear his name called when Klinsmann named his first camp roster. Ditto for the subsequent camps, as well.

Once the MLS season came to a close, the numbers seemed to favor Feilhaber’s chances of returning. A team-high seven assists, along with four goals, showed that skilled central midfielder deserved a look with the National Team.

Yet, Klinsmann kept naming more new faces rather than players who blossomed under Bradley. All the while, Feilhaber quietly went about his business, surely hoping to get on the new coach’s radar. What would it take to get another shot? Feilhaber had to have wondered it on more than one occasion.

Finally, with a slate of winter friendlies scheduled, Klinsmann decided to include a number of MLS players. Geoff Cameron, Juan Aguedelo, and, yes, even Benny Feilhaber was on the coach’s latest list.

To his credit, if Feilhaber ever doubted or questioned his role with the National Team, he never showed it. He never let on how disappointed he may have been knowing that less experienced and, perhaps, unremarkable players were getting spots instead of him. While Klinsmann’s grand experiment sputtered to a 2-4-1 record, Feilhaber let his domestic play do the talking.

Perhaps he didn’t show it because of his transition to MLS, a league he originally skipped over after signing with overseas outfit Hamburg SV (Germany) right out of UCLA. After all, it was a new league, a new team, and a new style of play. A league that rewarded toughness over technical ability, as opposing players regularly kicked, tripped and elbowed away at the technically-refined Feilhaber.

Amid the fouls, frustrations, and failures – the Revolution sunk to the bottom of the conference – Feilhaber never quit. Even without a strong supporting cast, Feilhaber still found a way showcase his skills, even as the Revolution’s season started to circle around the drain. On a team that was going nowhere fast, number 22 never stopped giving a damn.

To say the call-up is deserving would be an understatement. On a number of occasions throughout his career, the creative midfielder proved that he belonged with the National Team. Whether it was his wonderstrike during the 2007 Gold Cup final, his precise passing during the 2009 Confederations Cup, or his contributions during the 2010 World Cup, Feilhaber provided few arguments against his inclusion on the National Team radar.

With a new man in charge on the national team scene, Feilhaber finally gets the chance to show Klinsmann what Bob Bradley and many others already knew: Feilhaber’s skill and decision making bring a steadying presence in the midfield and, perhaps more importantly, he has the reputation of a player who’s performance improves once the stakes are raised.

It may not have been the longest wait in between call ups, but it certainly was one of the most curious. But all of that is a moot point now, as Feilhaber gets ready to show his new boss why he belongs in National Team camp.

Relief? Sure. But, knowing how fiery Feilhaber is in the field, it’s a feeling that is sure to give way to something else: single-minded determination.

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