Saturday, February 28, 2009


Late last night, after reading a few more chapters of "House on Mango Street" and before hitting the hay, I snuck in a few minutes to catch up with the Men's National Team on And while going through some of the World Cup Qualifying articles, it dawned upon me:

What the heck happened to Benny Feilhaber?

Seriously. The Yank from Brazil had his ticket virtually punched to South Africa after an impressive '07 Gold Cup showing. Many of us still have visions of that laser-guided missile that not only broke the Mexicans in the final, but nearly burst through the twine. I still marvel at that shot. Wow.

Soon afterward, Benny's name was on the tongue of all American soccer supporters. His time at Hamburg SV seemed to serve him well, and put him in a position to transfer Derby County, which was in the Premier League at the time. Everything was going this kid's way.

But then, the clock struck midnight. Derby couldn't stay afloat in the Premiership, and had to release the midfielder on a free transfer. He ended up with the Danish side Aarhus Gymnastikforening, but struggled to stay fit.

This in turn has led to diminishing returns with the National Team. He was named to the U.S. Olymic team roster last summer, but was limited to late-matchcameos in each of the Yanks three matches.

Meanwhile, Jose Francisco Torres, Ricardo Clark and Sacha Kljestan have all leapfrogged Feilhaber in Bob Bradley's midfield within the past year. In fact, all three have performed so well that Feilhaber's name seems to have become nothing more than afterthought when next year's World Cup squad is discussed.

It has become a sad realization of the old saying: out of sight, out of mind.


So, I say all that above to say this: forget Beckham for second. Forget the rumors of Ahn Jung-Hwan or Thierry Henry (in a few years) journeying to MLS. What MLS could use is an influx of the country's brightest players abroad.

Feilhaber would be a great candidate. Even if he isn't signed by MLS, I'm sure a loan could be worked out. Despite Benny's recent plague of injuries, he's only 24, and has a world of talent when healthy. Plus, it would be a win/win situation for nearly all involved. Feilhaber would be in a much better forum for National Team consideration, and the MLS club he's assigned to would surely benefit from having him in their midfield.

And you know who else would benefit from this kind of Stateside return?

Eddie Johnson, another guy who's just melted away from our soccer minds over the past year. E.J.'s shown us what he's got in MLS, but he's struggled to find playing time at Cardiff City. Because of that, he's watched Jozy Altidore and Kenny Cooper take his throne up top with the Yanks. Put E.J. on a team like the Galaxy, with Bruce Arena there? OMG. It'd be like reuniting Jennifer Love Hewitt and Lacey Chabert for a "Party of Five" reunion. Yum.

Although I can think of a few more former National Team guys who've fallen off the map recently, I'll name a dark horse. You know, for debate purposes. The comments section? Yeah, completely unmoderated. Shoot off at all.

Jeremiah White. Yep, I said it. The same Jeremiah White that blew off the Revolution after it drafted him back in 2004. He's been called up a couple of times, but has never seen actual pitch time. He's currently playing in Denmark for AGF Aarhus, which might as well be Supercalafrageslitcexpialidocious Aarhus, because a guy of his talent should have seen some action earlier this year in the Yanks' friendly vs. Sweden.

Now, I'm not saying that all three of these guys would welcome the idea of being plucked from their European flats and cast into MLS. I have no idea if these guys would light the league on fire. I'm not a clairvoyant. But I think some serious consideration should be given by the suits in MLS to start thinking about this cheaper alternative to big-name (costlier) signings.


Anonymous said...

I think these guys want to make it in Europe. Coming back to MLS would be a step back in their view. Probably, in EJ's case, his lack of technical ability is being exposed. He's fast and strong but not very good on the ball. J. White actually has debuted for the U.S. as a sub in last year's "camp cupcake" friendly against Sweden. Regarding Benny, he needs to stay healthy and get some consistent playing time for AGF. He is pure quality and offers qualities unique in the U.S. player pool. Sucks that his career so far has descended from Hamburg > Derby > AGF. He would be key against top quality opponents in WC 2010 if he's fit and in form.

Greg Seltzer said...

Benny is not coming to MLS anytime soon, nor should he. He is finally fit again, and AGF have him as a big part of their plans for the second half as they try to chase the top 4.

I don't think there's any need to panic over Benny.

BrianTheOC said...

Thanks for the comments guys. I can definitely understand the perspective of guys wanting to stay in Europe. Heck, it's their careers, and they should do what they feel is best. But I have to think there are a few guys who'd be better off playing regularly in MLS, and THEN maybe going back to Europe. I guess what I'm getting at is the old maxim, "just because you can, doesn't mean you should."