Whirlwind week lands Feilhaber in Foxborough
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The last week has been a whirlwind for Benny Feilhaber.
Accelerated talks with Major League Soccer led to the 26-year-old U.S. National Team midfielder signing a contract with the League last Friday, April 15, bringing an end to his two-year spell with Danish club AGF Aarhus and signaling his intention to move across the Atlantic and return home.
But at that point, the journey was just beginning for Feilhaber.
As a returning U.S. National Team player, Feilhaber was made available to all MLS clubs through the Allocation Process – the same method in which the Vancouver Whitecaps acquired Jay DeMerit, the Portland Timbers acquired Kenny Cooper and D.C. United acquired Charlie Davies. Chivas USA held the top spot in the allocation order and was given a 5 p.m. ET deadline on Tuesday, April 19, to make a decision on whether to select the 2010 FIFA World Cup veteran.
The unique circumstances meant Feilhaber endured a nerve-wracking wait to discover exactly where he’d be continuing his professional soccer career.
“Once I’d signed, it was a two or three day wait until Chivas had to make their decision,” Feilhaber said via conference call from Denmark on Wednesday afternoon. “For me, it was really tough. I was anxious – I knew I’d already signed with the League, but (not) where I was going exactly.
“I knew Chivas had a big decision in front of them, and I knew there was a chance I could end up there … but in the back of my mind, I knew I could really end up anywhere,” he continued.
Eventually, Feilhaber’s anxiety turned to relief and satisfaction when he finally discovered his destination. Both Chivas USA and the Philadelphia Union – second in the allocation order – passed on Feilhaber, paving the way for the New England Revolution to snap up the creative attacking midfielder from the third spot.
“I went to bed last night not knowing 100 percent,” Feilhaber admitted. “I had a feeling it would be New England, but I didn’t know. And when I woke up this morning, I had a text from my agent, Lyle (Yorks), telling me it was New England. So I was really satisfied with how everything went.”
Satisfied would likely be an understatement in describing the reaction of the Revolution, which jumped at the chance to acquire a dynamic young player with 38 appearances for the U.S. National Team and experience playing at the highest levels both internationally and in Europe.
Considering Feilhaber’s resume, both Vice President of Player Personnel Michael Burns and head coach Steve Nicol were stunned to learn the Brazilian-born playmaker was made available from the Allocation Process’ third spot.
“There’s no way that at (number) three, he was going to be available,” Burns said of his thoughts ahead of Tuesday’s 5 p.m. ET deadline. “And the five o’clock deadline came and went and we didn’t get anything and all of a sudden I got a call from the League saying both Chivas and Philly had passed. We were quite surprised, to say the least.”
“We figured if he wasn’t going to Chivas, he was going to Philly,” reiterated Nicol. “So, when they didn’t (select him), it was pretty straightforward for us … particularly the last year we’ve lacked experience and we obviously have wanted to do better with the ball, so it was pretty straightforward.”
Feilhaber adds both creativity and ability in the attacking third, elements which the Revolution has lacked in recent years while struggling to score goals. The Revs registered a club record low 32 goals in 30 games last season and have scored just five goals in the first six games of the 2011 season.
The contributions could begin almost immediately, as Feilhaber is expected to join his new teammates for training on Friday and be available for selection on Saturday night when the Revs host Sporting Kansas City at Gillette Stadium.
“I feel I’m a good passer of the ball, I’m pretty calm on the ball and I can spring the team into the attack,” Feilhaber said. “That’s definitely what I’m going to try to bring to the team.
“I think the team is stronger so far than the points we’ve got,” he noted of the Revolution’s 1-2-3 (6 pts.) record. “I’m excited to come in and meet the guys, be part of the whole team and try to help the team. I think we’ve got a good group of guys and I see me fitting in well with the style of play.”
Feilhaber’s enthusiastic about getting started with the Revs and beginning a new chapter of his life in New England. And if it means he won’t have to go through another Allocation Process, he’d be more than delighted with making the Northeast his long-term home.
“I hope I don’t have to go through something that crazy again,” said Feilhaber. “But, in the end, it’s what I wanted and I’m really happy to come to New England now.”