Feilhaber happy to get fresh start after rough 2012 campaign
Benny Feilhaber is anxious to put this past season behind him as he moves forward with his new club. His new manager, though, insists he couldn't care less about the midfielder's disappointing 2012 campaign.
"I don't put any stock in what happened last year," Sporting Kansas City manager Vermes said in a conference call on Tuesday, after his club acquired Feilhaber from New England for allocation money and MLS SuperDraft picks in 2014 and 2015. "What I do know is that going into next year, we have a very motivated group that's excited to try and excel again — and I think Benny fits into that. I know the qualities and the characteristics that he brings as a soccer player are going to fit into the mentality of our team."
But after just one goal and two assists this year — down from four and seven in 2011, also with the Revolution — the US national team veteran has plenty of his own motivation to return to form in 2013.
"I want to get back to playing the soccer that I know I can play," Feilhaber told reporters on the conference call. "I don't think I've done that for the past year — at least for a year now."
And after two years of losing records in New England, Feilhaber joins a team that has finished atop the Eastern Conference standings the last two years and will play in the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League after winning the US Open Cup.
He can't wait.
"At the end of the season, I knew that Kansas City was a place I would love to go," Feilhaber said. "This was before anything moved in that direction. I'm really glad that it's happened this way. Of all the teams in the league, this is the best team for me in terms of the style that they play."
But at the same time, Feilhaber looked back on his time with the Revs as an important learning experience.
"I'm an extremely competitive person, and losing doesn't bring out the best in anybody," he said. "I struggled with it and obviously didn't have a great season this year. ... But, you take out what you can. You try and learn from it. I can take the things I learned about myself as a player, as a person, and I think I can take that and make myself better."
A successful comeback with Sporting could also boost Feilhaber's chances of returning to regular duty in the US national team, where he has 39 caps and has made appearances in the CONCACAF Gold Cup and Copa América, not to mention the Confederations Cup and World Cup.
And while he acknowledges that playing for a winning team will boost his profile, impressing US coach Jurgen Klinsmann isn't his primary focus.
"My initial goal is to just get back to playing good soccer, being the player that I know I can be, and once I'm there we'll see what happens with the national team," he said. "Hopefully, Jurgen's still got an eye out for me, but I have to prove myself. I have to get back to playing well, and Sporting's a place where I'll have all the tools to do it."
That's what Vermes wants to hear, as his club continues to look for the missing pieces to take them to an MLS Cup Final after two straight years of playoff disappointment. However, he's not putting the burden on Feilhaber to do it himself.
"It doesn't fall on the shoulders of one person," Vermes said. "We have a very solid core group of guys, and Benny's going to add to that. So I think from that point of view, he has a lot of guys that he can also count on as well. I think it's a really, really good fit for our team."
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.