MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif.—Sporting Kansas City midfielder Benny Feilhaber says he's accepted that he will never get another opportunity with the US national team as long as Jurgen Klinsmann is running things. But he's troubled by the German legend's selections for his rosters, and that has nothing to do with his omissions.
Coming off an outstanding 2015 campaign, the MLS Landon Donovan MVP finalist closed Tuesday's MLS media roundtable in Southern California with an epic, nearly 10-minute dissection of what he believes is the biggest problem facing the national team under Klinsmann: That the best players, those who would make the team stronger and more competitive, aren't getting the opportunities they deserve.
“I don't think Jurgen calls in the best players that are available to him,” said Feilhaber, who has made 41 international appearances and played under Bob Bradley at the 2010 World Cup, told a dozen journalists at the close of the 8 1/2-hour, 21-player session at the Manhattan Beach Marriott. “That, for me, is a problem. There's players that are better than other players that don't get an opportunity with the national team. That, for me, is a bigger deal than anything else.
“Everybody points fingers at certain things, but, for me, that's the most important thing.”
Feilhaber's “long rant,” as he termed it when he finished, began almost as an afterthought. He'd answered questions about Sporting's 2015 campaign and prospects for the coming season, MLS's competitiveness, and Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco and LA Galaxy's Robbie Keane – the past two league MVPs. Then an “Any final questions?” request brought a query about the USMNT, which is stationed nearby for its annual January camp at StubHub Center.
“I think I've accepted the fact that Jurgen's not going to call me in,” said Feilhaber, who has made three US appearances under Klinsmann, the last during January camp in 2014. “I mean, if I play the year that I played this last year and I'm not getting a call, you know, I'm not going to get an opportunity under Jurgen. That's something I just have to accept. I wouldn't say [I'm] frustrated, just almost sad, kind of.
“I feel like I'm playing the best soccer of my career, but I don't get the opportunity to play for my country. It's something I've kind of accepted. It is what it is. It's not going to happen with Jurgen as coach.”
That brought more questions, and Feilhaber was pointed in his responses, asserting that he believes Klinsmann doesn't give MLS players a fair shake – and that some overseas players also haven't been given opportunities when warranted.
He singled out several players who should have the chance, but haven't, to win prominent roles with the national team.
“Based on what I see, I think that Jurgen takes some players in MLS and uses the fact that they're in MLS to maybe not call them up or whatever,” Feilhaber said. “You look at some of the top players that played this year, and you take a Sacha Kljestan, you take a Dax McCarty, you take a Matt Hedges, and I'm sure you can go on and on, and these guys aren't getting an opportunity.
“So it's not just me. There's certain people like that, but there's people in Europe as well. I can't name a lot of guys – I don't know some of the younger guys – but an Eric Lichaj, for example, he's been playing well in Europe for countless years, and he hasn't been really given any opportunity either. So there's guys in MLS, there's guys in Europe who don't get opportunities with Jurgen for whatever reason.”
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Feilhaber said Klinsmann “doesn't do his job” in this respect.
“I believe there's, obviously, two duties [that a coach has],” Feilhaber said. "That's 1) Making the best possible team you can possibly make with the players that are available to you, and 2) Try to continuously improve that team so that team doesn't stall in any way and continues to improve. For me, Jurgen seems to try to do the second one without doing the first one.
“He'd rather put young guys on the team who potentially could become someone important on the team, and he leaves out players that could make the team better right now,” Feilhaber added. “The No. 1 job of a coach is not to make the team as good as he could make it in five years, it's to make it as good as he could make it now and continuously improve it for five years from now.”