FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – As the calendar flips to July, midfielder Benny Feilhaber was supposed to be making his return to the New England Revolution lineup after a successful stint with the U.S. National Team in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
While Feilhaber did return to MLS action with a start in the Revolution’s 2-1 loss to Seattle Sounders FC last weekend at CenturyLink Field, it was under entirely different circumstances.
The 26-year-old World Cup veteran spent the past month watching both his Revolution and U.S. teammates from the sidelines while nursing a sprained right ankle. In perhaps the most unfortunate method possible, Feilhaber suffered the injury with only minutes remaining in the Revolution’s home game against the LA Galaxy on May 28. He was scheduled to join the U.S. National Team for training camp the following morning, but instead left Gillette Stadium that evening on crutches and in a walking boot.
After coping with the dual disappointment of both suffering the injury and subsequently missing out on the Gold Cup, Feilhaber was thrilled just to take the field last weekend in Seattle.
“It’s always good to get back and play with the guys,” he said after Wednesday’s training session in Foxborough. “I’ve been watching the games on TV, so it’s good to be back with the guys on the field and trying to help out. The ankle’s starting to feel better and better every day.”
Feilhaber made an immediate impact upon his return to the lineup, setting up Sainey Nyassi’s third-minute goal with a cleverly taken short corner kick. It was the former AGF Aarhus playmaker’s second assist since arriving in New England in mid-April.
While Feilhaber claims his right ankle was of little concern at CenturyLink Field, he admits it’ll take time to regain full fitness after missing four games and weeks’ worth of training.
“The ankle felt OK, there was really no problem with the ankle,” said Feilhaber. “After the game’s over and your body isn’t as warm anymore, then you start to feel a little bit of soreness in there. But during the game it didn’t bother me too much.
“As for fitness, I knew it was going to be an issue the first game back,” he continued. “Obviously, it’ll get better as the games go on. I’m a player who usually needs two or three games to get that game fitness back. Each and every week it’ll get better and with practice it’ll improve, as well.”
Upcoming league games against Real Salt Lake (July 4) and the Philadelphia Union (July 17) – sandwiched around a midweek friendly with Barclays Premier League champion Manchester United (July 13) – will provide the setting for Feilhaber to find his legs, as he concedes that daily training sessions can only so do much.
“With me, it’s really a lot about games,” Feilhaber said. “I can train as much as I want, but I’m not going to get that game fitness unless I’m playing. Obviously practice gives you that base that you need, but really, playing games is what’s going to help me get back to 100 percent fitness.”