FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – From the moment Benny Feilhaber limped off the field with a left peroneal strain during the second half of New England's 3-0 defeat at Sporting Kansas City on March 17, he targeted his next opportunity to take the field.
It took him a bit longer than he would have liked to achieve that goal, but Feilhaber returned to the training field last week and featured in a first-team match for the first time in a month during Saturday's 2-1 defeat to D.C. United.
“It sucks being injured,” Feilhaber told MLSsoccer.com on Saturday. “It's the worst thing in football. Being able to come back in play, that's what the goal was for me for the last four weeks, personally.”
Feilhaber's finally ankle allowed him to push forward toward that objective last week. As his health improved, the US international midfielder focused on preparing himself for match action after missing three games.
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“It was more about fitness,” Feilhaber said. “I've been out for three weeks and I started training for the first time this week and I was in 50 percent mode from the start.”
By the time the week ended, that number increased significantly and Feilhaber and Revolution coach Jay Heaps agreed that he could enter the match at some point during the second half. Both parties ultimately targeted a half-hour spell to accelerate his return to the squad.
“We were going to get him at least 30 [minutes],” Heaps said. “That was the intention. Unfortunately, we didn't want to make a sub from that [injury] standpoint.”
Lee Nguyen's struggle with illness complicated matters as Heaps weighed his substitution options. Heaps decided to replace the fading Nguyen after 55 minutes and told Feilhaber to give what he could as the Revs attempted to secure all three points at home.
“I thought Benny did well when he came in,” Heaps said. “I thought he was a spark. We asked him to go in there and fight. That's what he did.”
Those efforts did not yield a result, but they did mark a promising first step toward a full return to the starting XI as Feilhaber emerged from his outing without any complaints about his recent knock. With the injury relegated to the past, he can now transfer his energy from pushing for a return to action to reclaiming his best form and fitness ahead of New England's trip to New York on April 28.
“It's always tough,” Feilhaber said. “It's good to be out there. It felt like I played two games [on Saturday]. I was pretty tired. I'm still getting my game fitness back. From an injury perspective, it was really good. My ankle felt good, so it was nice to be out there.”