FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Benny Feilhaber had been waiting months to celebrate a goal.
Prior to this past weekend, the Revolution midfielder’s last MLS goal came on Oct. 8, 2011, when he scored in the 55th minute of a 2-1 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes. Feilhaber celebrated that goal with a nod to American football, pretending to catch a touchdown pass from teammate Ryan Guy before spiking an imaginary ball.
He had another premeditated goal celebration ready to unveil when he finally ended his 11-game scoring drought on Saturday night against the Chicago Fire, but Saer Sène couldn’t contain his excitement and promptly tackled Feilhaber before he had the chance to break it out.
Foiled on his first attempt, Feilhaber will simply have to hope his breakthrough performance against the Fire – which also included an assist on Kelyn Rowe’s game-winning goal – opens the floodgates and provides more opportunities for celebration.
“It was nice to get a goal and an assist,” Feilhaber said with visible relief during postgame media access. “I haven’t had any of those this year so hopefully that will propel me to some more.”
Deployed as a winger for much of the season, Feilhaber was pushed into central midfield against Chicago with both Clyde Simms (L ankle tendonitis) and Guy (R calf tightness) sidelined by injury. Playing in a free-flowing attacking role with Shalrie Joseph tucked in behind, Feilhaber put forth one of his strongest performances of the season.
“I thought it was good,” Feilhaber said of playing centrally. “I haven’t been in [central midfield] in awhile. It’s my most comfortable spot and me and Shalrie have played plenty together with last year and all, so I think we fell into it pretty quickly.”
“(Tonight) was big for Benny,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “Obviously Benny (has been involved) a lot more on the wide play and today we focused on him being more in the middle, attacking. He’s comfortable there. I thought that Benny did everything right tonight; he defended when we needed him to defend and when he had his chances to change the game, he did. It was really important he went out there and played that way.”
In a sense, the game itself was a microcosm of Feilhaber’s season. Battling and scrapping for the first hour, the Revs slogged through tricky weather conditions and a resolute opponent without tangible results. But eventually their persistence was rewarded when Rowe provided relief with his 69th-minute goal, followed by Feilhaber’s insurance strike just four minutes later.
“In the first half, I don’t think we were really able to do some of the things we wanted to do,” said Feilhaber. “I think we were fighting in there. It wasn’t really the best conditions.
“We stayed together as a team and it came through in the [69th] minute with Kelyn’s opportunity, and then obviously my goal, and we were able to put them away,” Feilhaber added. “It took awhile for us to break through, but it finally came.”