For Benny Feilhaber, shock of LAFC trade quickly turned to excitement

Benny Feilhaber -- LAFC -- Presser

LOS ANGELES – When Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes called Benny Feilhaber to tell the veteran midfielder he'd been traded, the flow of Feilhaber's emotions changed quickly.

“The first thing you think is, ‘I’m definitely upset,’" Feilhaber said of the unexpected news. "But then [Vermes] follows it up with: ‘we’ve just traded you to LAFC.' As soon as he says that, you kind of calm your nerves about where you’re headed.”

While Feilhaber's five-season tenure in Kansas City represented his longest stint at any club, the move to LAFC, in exchange for a combined $400,000 of Targeted and General Allocation Money, provides a reunion in multiple ways for the soon-to-be-33-year-old.

At his formal introduction Wednesday, Feilhaber spoke highly of his time in Kansas City, calling those years the best of his career. Yet the Brazilian-born playmaker was visibly and verbally excited to be back in Southern California, where he attended both high school and then college at UCLA.

“If a team is trading for you and looking to get you, they want you here,” Feilhaber said. “To be able to come to a team that you want to be at and they want you at, you can’t be upset with anything in that situation.”

Then there's LAFC coach Bob Bradley, who was at the helm of the US national team during a stretch when Feilhaber was a regular fixture for the Yanks. That included Feilhaber's most memorable moment in an international shirt, when he belted game-winning volley against El Tri to lift the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

“Bob was instrumental for me in terms of becoming the player that I am,” Feilhaber said of his international experiences under Bradley. “That time with him helped me become that player that I was in the last five years with Kansas City.”

Feilhaber spent five seasons at Children's Mercy Park, capturing the 2013 MLS Cup in his first season with the Midwest club, followed by two U.S. Open Cups in 2015 and 2017. At times criticized for inconsistent play earlier in his career, Feilhaber raised his standard to the point where he became a finalist for the 2015 MLS MVP award.

Feilhaber has scored 34 goals and contributed 50 assists in his more than 200 MLS regular-season matches, which will make him among the most experienced MLS players in Bradley's still developing side. And perhaps never will Feilhaber have had the chance to play club football with an array of players similar to the club’s mounting wealth of attacking talent.

“Whenever you get to play with quality players, guys who have the ability to do the things that Carlos Vela can do,” he said, “You are excited to be alongside them.”

Feilhaber is also anticipating the reunion with Sporting KC teammate Latif Blessing, whom LAFC acquired in last month’s expansion draft. Their partnership led to key moments during Kansas City’s 2017 U.S. Open Cup run.

“He’s a guy who doesn’t get worried about the moment,” Feilhaber said of the 21-year-old Ghanaian-born Blessing. “He’s going to fit really well in with our club.”