Postcard from Europe: Feilhaber back in big time?
AMSTERDAM – Before heading out to US national-team camp in North Carolina this week, AGF Aarhus playmaker Benny Feilhaber and the rest of his teammates emerged from Denmark's extended winter hibernation with a comfy home victory.
Like so much of the midfielder's existence since the 2010 World Cup, it was business as usual.
By topping Hobro 2-0, Aarhus won for the 13th time in 17 league games. The second-flight leaders padded their cushion on top to seven points. In a league with two automatic promotion sports, AGF are now also 10 points clear of third place and are on the fast track to return to the Danish Superliga.
Feilhaber has been a constant threat all term, notching seven goals and seven assists in 20 matches across both league and domestic cup competitions. Played mostly as a left attacking midfielder, the American is generally responsible for penalty duties and dead balls for his side.
His play has helped his side charge toward promotion, earned continued USMNT call-ups and made him a regular name in transfer talk – business as usual all over.
[inline_node:323274]However, Feilhaber's AGF deal expires at season's end. That fact also makes it a given that he's expected to leave the Whites, who rescued him from Derby County in 2008.
Feilhaber has widely been thought to be out the door since those three solid appearances in South Africa last summer.
He even had exciting interest this winter from his native Brazil and a Mexican brand-name club, consistently reported to be Cruz Azul. And yet, he is still in Denmark, still aiming for a title and promotion.
"There was interest from clubs in both countries, but none of those interests materialized into something concrete," Feilhaber explained to MLSsoccer.com from Denmark. "There have been ongoing talks with several clubs since, and we will see if anything solidifies moving toward summer."
Despite all this constant activity around him, there's a real chance that the midfielder will still be sparking moves at AGF next season. A very favorable ex-pat tax-rate change helped the club's prospects for keeping him, as has the team's tabletop performance.
"There is a very good chance we will [win promotion] this season," said Feilhaber. "That, of course, heightens the chance of me possibly re-signing for AGF in the summertime. I will have to take everything into consideration that is offered to me. I definitely don't rule anything out at this moment."
With transfer buzz always surrounding Feilhaber, one might wonder if things ever get uncomfortable at NRGi Park. Happily for him, the norm also means always being amongst "family" with AGF.
"Its never been awkward here," he stated. "I have a really good relationship with the people here. No matter what is going on in the business aspect of football, I still feel very comfortable here in Aarhus."
Feilhaber has also grown quite comfy with being a member of the title favorite this season. The American and his team exude confidence, and for good reason.
The Whites have been impressive all season, ringing up a plus-28 goal differential, 15 better than their closest rivals. A perfect nine-for-nine as the best home team in the league, AGF have also outscored foes 10-3 in eight road tilts. They've only lost once, posting five- and six-game winning streaks.
Now reopened for business, Feilhaber says to expect more of the same from his side as they head for the finish line.
[inline_node:316244]"Everything has been going well in [midseason camp]," he reported. "I think our team is looking good for the spring season.
"If we can keep focused, we should be able to continue our good run of form from the fall. Our team, in my opinion, is the favorite to promote back to the Superliga."
Their first-place position and team mentality probably makes it easier for Feilhaber to turn full focus to this USMNT camp. He wants to stay involved in all matters Red, White and Blue – especially this summer.
The CONCACAF Gold Cup is coming around again - don't foget, he scored the game-winner of the 2007 final against Mexico - and the 26-year-old wants to solidify his place in Bob Bradley's tourney plans during the upcoming Argentina and Paraguay friendlies.
As in 2007, this year's Gold Cup crown comes with a Confederations Cup invite. There is much on the line, and Feilhaber wants action. Nothing new.
"Gold Cup will be very important for our national team this summer," declared Feilhaber. "As for me, I am going to, of course, put myself in the best situation possible to be selected for the team and help the team any way I can. It'll be definitely a very exciting summer."