FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England coach Steve Nicol plans to hand Benny Feilhaber his MLS debut at some point during Saturday night's game against Sporting Kansas City (7:30 pm ET, MatchDay Live).
He just isn't quite sure when he will do so.
“We'll decide between now and tomorrow,” Nicol told MLSsoccer.com after the Revs trained on Friday morning. “He hasn't trained all week. Obviously, he's had a long flight. We'll see how he feels tomorrow morning. I'm sure he'll be on the field at some stage, if not from the start.”
Although Nicol would surely like to throw Feilhaber straight into the mix, the 26-year-old midfielder may need a bit more time to settle into his new surroundings and work through the fatigue in his legs after trekking from Denmark to the United States on Thursday.
“[My legs are] a little heavy,” Feilhaber said. “I haven't trained in a week and, at the same time, I've had 20 hours of travel yesterday. They're definitely a bit heavy. I felt it a little bit after the first 15 to 20 minutes [of a scrimmage]. I was getting heavier and slowing down a little bit.”
Despite his arduous itinerary over the past few days, Feilhaber said he can make his Revolution debut if Nicol deems him fit enough to take the field at some stage.
“I don't know if I'll play a part, but I'm ready for it if he thinks I am,” Feilhaber said. “I'd love to start being with the team and helping them out with whatever I can do.”
Feilhaber's fitness represents one of the few question marks for Nicol as nearly every member of his squad is available for selection.
Didier Domi looks set to return to the starting lineup after missing the past two games with a left hamstring strain. Shalrie Joseph and Pat Phelan could step straight back into the lineup after missing last Sunday's 1-0 defeat at Houston through suspension, while Rajko Lekic isn't expected to miss any time as he grapples with a left hip flexor strain.
Ousmane Dabo remains one of the few potential absentees, but there is even good news for the French midfielder. He returned to full training last week as he continues to recover from a right quadriceps strain and restore his match fitness.
Although Dabo likely won't play against Sporting, he will feature in Tuesday's US Open Cup play-in match at D.C. United, Nicol said.
All of those healthy bodies will work toward ending Sporting's recent dominance in this currently one-sided series. Kansas City have won five of the past seven matches in the series (5-1-1), but the Revs did notch a 1-0 in their most recent meeting last October.
In order to continue that positive run and place that nasty streak in the rear view mirror, the Revs will have to keep careful watch over Sporting's array of attacking weapons – the recovering Ryan Smith could feature off the bench for the first time this season to complement a diverse group that already includes Teal Bunbury, Kei Kamara and C.J. Sapong – and use their spells in possession wisely.
“They'll leave guys high,” Nicol said. “Defensively, they don't all get behind the ball, tuck in and squeeze like normal teams will do. They'll take some chances and leave people up front, which obviously means that we have to be good on the ball and not turn it over. If we do, they're going to be at us quickly.”