Feilhaber hopes for March call from "open-minded" Arena after "fun" US camp

Benny Feilhaber is cautiously optimistic that his decisive performance vs. Jamaica on Friday night has earned him a role in the US national team’s pivotal March World Cup qualifiers.

The Sporting Kansas City star pulled the strings to good effect at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, Tennessee, assisting on Jordan Morris’ game-winning goal and completing 84 percent of his passes in a playmaking role.

“Benny had a good game, Benny had a good game. Helped create the goal,” head coach Bruce Arena told reporters postgame.

“The biggest thing we're trying to do is form a team out of this group of players, take a little pride in what they’re doing. We've had two games where we haven't conceded a goal, which is a real positive. We can certainly score a few more goals.”

Though he faces stiff competition from the likes of Sacha Kljestan, Alejandro Bedoya and Darlington Nagbe for an advanced midfield spot with the USMNT, Feilhaber was bullish as the squad wrapped up their January camp.

“In order to be there in March you had to play well in March and in these games,” said the 32-year-old. “If you made an impression, I think you’ll get a chance. Bruce is very open about that and very honest. I think I had a good game today, I thought the team played very well, and it’s just exciting in my position to be a part of the creation of a goal.

“That’s what I love to do, is find other guys in space and get them opportunities to score goals. It was a lot of fun tonight.”

Arena’s call-up for this camp ended a three-year absence from the US picture for Feilhaber, who failed to earn former coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s trust and eventually made public his simmering frustrations with the situation.

On Friday Feilhaber emphasized the new atmosphere under Arena.

“Everyone had such a good attitude in this camp. Everybody was happy. It was smiles,” he said. “We were playing for one another and it really felt like the team was No. 1. With a group of guys that haven’t played together, you see the actions we had and the ability we had to get better as the game progressed. Pressing the other team into mistakes and all that stuff kind of shows that the team first mentality is really coming through.”

Arena has made it a priority to seek out more creative options in central midfield as he looks to put the US back on track for Russia 2018 with at least four points from next month’s Hexagonal qualifiers vs. Honduras (March 24) and at Panama (March 28).

“I’m a guy that really likes to create opportunities for the guys ahead of me,” said Feilhaber in Chattanooga. “I’m a little bit different than some other players in that position for a national team, and hopefully Bruce thinks the same thing and gives me the opportunity to come in. That’s something I’ve dreamed of for a long time, and hopefully I get the opportunity to come back.”