"Benny to Brazil" talk rages on as Benny Feilhaber continues prime form with Sporting Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Peter Vermes is torn, and he readily admits it.
On the one hand, Sporting Kansas City's manager already knows he'll be losing two players to the US national team for this summer's World Cup – and the “Benny to Brazil” talk just keeps getting louder every week.
But the way Benny Feilhaber has been playing so far this season, Vermes believes the veteran midfielder, a member of Bob Bradley's 2010 squad in South Africa, deserves a nod from Jurgen Klinsmann alongside winger Graham Zusi and center back Matt Besler.
“I think Benny's been fantastic from Game 1,” Vermes said. “He has been extremely consistent every game. He's taken it up a notch. I think he is, right now, in incredible form. I would take a look at him if I was in that position, absolutely. He's playing at a high level on both sides of the ball, and he's got a level of confidence now that is fantastic. I'll be surprised if he doesn't get a look.”
Feilhaber's hopes for a second World Cup got a boost when he was called into Klinsmann's January camp and came on as a sub in a 1-0 friendly win over South Korea. But after being left out of the squad for a March friendly against Ukraine, Feilhaber said he was resigned to staying home this summer.
That hasn't changed, he said later in Wednesday's news conference.
“Mentally, I'm very happy with where I'm at right now,” Feilhaber said. “The team that gave me an opportunity to play well again was Sporting Kansas City. The coaching staff, the owners, my teammates, they brought me in here and believed in me, and that's who I'm focused on playing well for. That's going to continue to be my focus, and mentally I'm not hoping.
“I guess you could always hope that maybe you get a chance, but I'm not expecting anything to happen with the national team,” he added. “Definitely not before the World Cup. So if anything happens that lets me believe I have a chance, then my mentality will change. But as of right now, this is my sole focus.”
Feilhaber's club play so far has only fueled the talk that he deserves a trip to his native Brazil, though. Going into Saturday's match at New England (7:30 pm ET; MLS Live) – the club where he suffered through a one-goal, two-assist season in 2012 before a trade to Sporting revitalized his career – he has two goals across all competitions and has established a commanding, creative presence on both sides of the ball.
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“I'm probably at the highest level that I've played my entire career,” he said. “The consistency of my play is something that I've been working for a long time, and I think I've done a pretty good job with that at the beginning of this year. That obviously goes with a lot of the understanding of the game that we play here, the amount of fitness that they've essentially forced us to have with the style of play that we do. It's really helped me last year to be as consistent as I have been this year.
“I feel really good about where I'm at, and I just want to keep it going now.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.