World Cup: Benny Feilhaber credits his solid USMNT camp to Sporting KC's fitness demands
Benny Feilhaber turned his resurgent play over the course of Sporting Kansas City's MLS Cup-winning season into a January camp bid with the US national team.
Now, the veteran midfielder will have to wait to see if his performance in training and in Saturday's 2-0 friendly win over South Korea has earned him a second straight World Cup roster spot – this one in Brazil, the country where he was born.
“I thought it went pretty well,” Feilhaber told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Tuesday from Sporting's preseason training camp in Tucson, Ariz. “I thought I did well with the time I was given in the game, and then training went pretty well. It was a tough camp, though. A lot of guys were pretty heavy legged in Brazil, and we had some tough training sessions. But the camp was good.”
US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann sent Feilhaber on just after the hour mark Saturday, with the US already up by two goals. Consequently, he saw more of a defensive than playmaking role.
“The 30 minutes I got, I think I did OK with it,” said Feilhaber, who has 41 caps and was part of the 2010 team that made the Round of 16 in South Africa. “I don't think it was anything too special. It's tough to make anything happen in the last 30 minutes, especially when we were already up 2-0 and they were trying to come at us.”
Feilhaber's work in training impressed fellow US and Sporting midfielder Graham Zusi.
“That's the fittest I've ever seen him,” Zusi said. “You could tell he'd been working hard in the offseason, and I thought he was very aggressive coming out of the midfield. He was a ball-winner throughout camp, and then obviously he did the things you see Benny do every day on a consistent basis: setting up people, putting people into play and being the attacking midfielder you saw all season.”
Sporting and US defender Matt Besler agreed, also noting Feilhaber's fitness and work on defense.
“I was impressed with Benny,” Besler said. “I was happy for him that he came in fit. He came in with a very good attitude, and for pretty much the entire camp he was playing well. It was a good thing to see to see how he worked defensively. Some of the habits he picked up this last year, you could see him using for the national team.”
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Adjusting to Sporting's fitness demands over the course of the 2013 MLS season gave him a boost going into the January camp, Feilhaber said.
“This was the fittest I've ever been going into a January camp, and that no doubt has to do with the work that I put in last year with Sporting, with the fitness trainer and the way we play,” he said. “So it definitely made a big difference.
"And I think the season as a whole – not only the fitness part of it, but the improvements in my game, the way we play, the way we press other teams – is something I'm able to show Jurgen I've improved in.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.