By Kevin Koczwara
Chivas USA and the Philadelphia Union both passed on signing U.S. Men’s National Team Midfielder Benny Feilhaber in the Allocation Draft because of his league maximum salary of $425,000. The salary cap implications of signing the midfielder were too great for the two teams with the top picks in the draft lottery, so the Brazilian-born American fell to the New England Revolution with the third pick in the draft. The Revs didn’t pass on the chance to see the 26-year-old fall from their grasp; the team drafted him and his league max salary, bolstering its midfield and allowing the team to even shop the player around if it wants.
Feilhaber signed with the MLS from Aarhus GF in Denmark’s Superliga. The MLS paid for his transfer fee from the Danish club. Feilhaber’s contract was due to expire in June of this year. He scored four goals in 18 matches this season for Aarhus GF.
Here are some quick thoughts on the signing of Feilhaber:
- The American midfielder gives the Revolution a touch of class, something the team sorely needs. Manager Steve Nicol has plenty of grinders to put out on the field, but his squad really lacks a passer and creator. Feilhaber can be that creator in the middle of the field. His passing and technical abilities on the ball are top-class for Major League Soccer. With his ability to open up defenses with quick passes and quality touches, the Revolution automatically become a better attacking team.
- At 26-years-old, Feilhaber can be a long-term player in the league and he is marketable to the MLS fan base, something the Revs were looking for in a big-name, high-priced signing. Anyone who is a fan of the USMNT will know Feilhaber and his abilities. His skill and ability on the ball was one of the things that helped the USMNT make it to the Confederations Cup final in South Africa in 2009.
- Shalrie Joseph has been asked to do a lot in recent years. He has has been asked to score, hold down the midfield, distribute, control tempo, and be the master of ceremonies for the Revolution in recent years. And no player can do all of that. With the addition of Feilhaber, Joseph can drop deeper into the midfield and do what he does best, work the opponent’s best player into the ground and distribute the ball through the middle quickly and accurately.
- Nicol has gone with a five man midfield this year with Joseph at the top of the three man midfield diamond in the center and Pat Phelan and Stephen McCarthy behind him. The structure worked defensively, and Joseph even got a few goals out of it. But the link-up play was missing, and McCarthy and Phelan are too similar of players to play alongside one another. Add Feilhaber to the top of the diamond — where he plays much of the time for Bob Bradley and the USMNT — with Joseph paired next to Phelan or McCarthy, and the Revs have a formidable center midfield that can pass and has two ball-winners behind Feilhaber, so the playmaker doesn’t have to do too much dirty work and can focus on opening up play. When Dabo gets his hamstring healthy, the Revolution have a plethora of center midfielders who can do the dirty work. (Look for a trade maybe in the future of one of these players to open up space for another position and money for another striker.)
- The Revolution have been missing another marketable player outside of Shalrie Joseph since Taylor Twellman went down with his concussion problems and subsequently retired. Feilhaber gives the Revs a USMNT player with some pedigree and years left on him. He has a good look and European experience, always a plus. These are the things the team has been looking for in its next big signing, and it got those with Feilhaber. Look for him to start gracing covers, posters, and ads, as well as lead jersey sales soon.
Kevin Koczwara can be reached at Kevin.Koczwara@TheSoccerGuyOnline.com