The move was always going to happen this offseason.
Benny Feilhaber–overpaid by the league upon his entrance many would say–hightails it westbound to Sporting KC where coach Peter Vermes will see if he can coax the best out of player who is as feathery on the forward pass as they come but whose form ebbs based upon interest level and personal priority in the attack. Eastbound is some allocation money, Sporting KC’s natural first round pick in the MLS 2014 SuperDraft–likely to be near the end of the round if SKC’s quality of play remain the same and a second round pick in 2015.
Sporting Kansas City acquired midfielder Benny Feilhaber from the New England Revolution on Tuesday in exchange for allocation money, Sporting KC’s natural first round pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, and natural second round pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft.
It may–or may not–speak volumes that Feilhaber couldn’t squeeze himself into a Revs team that was desperate for someone of his services in the middle of the park. Many will laud a very dirty stat, that of “chances created” with Feilhaber as one of the league leaders (46) in the category, to cite Feilhaber’s value and perhaps misuse by Revs’ head man Jay Heaps, however the easy counter is that the Revs performance and record were noticeably improved when Feilhaber wasn’t getting minutes. Did Feilhaber not buy into Heaps system? Likely. Was Heaps system not playing to Feilhaber’s strengths? Also likely.
At least the Revs–who lucked into diminutive midfielder in the allocation draft in August 2011–got and created some value in holding onto Feilhaber for this long.
For Sporting KC, any way you slice the Feilhaber acquisition–barring a contract that isn’t exhorbitant and shouldn’t be more than two-years long–it’s a win. When Graham Zusi went national-teaming last year or Roger Espinoza was an Olympian, the Sporting KC attack shuddered to a halt, not that the attack was exceptionally prodigious when Zusi and Espinoza were on the pitch together by-the-by.
Sporting KC may have sorely lacked finished, but they also lacked anyone who could create in 2012 when teams battened down the hatches on them and forced the dissect them from within SKC attacking third. Vermes team would often find itself resorting to hopeful crosses to Kei Kamara or relying on Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic to go one-v-one to create chances in those scenarios. Myers and Sinovic are solid MLS overlapping fullbacks, but neither is who you want to entrust your primary attack to when the opponent is conceding possession.
For Vermes, Feilhaber gives him the knight on the chessboard.
Feilhaber might check in at the top of the midfield 4-3-3 with Zusi being more of a right midfield/wing maestro. In this role Feilhaber would be available on the outlet or be that incising central midfielder that could spearhead the attack when that opponent bottles it up. Or Vermes could use Feilhaber out to one side. The Californian often found himself pushed out to the right hashmark under coach Bob Bradley when he was in national team form.
Few forget that it was Feilhaber’s insertion just behind Clint Dempsey that ignited the US in their final World Cup game against Ghana in 2010.
Alas, this is now technically Zusi’s role–so Feilhaber out wide right seems occasional at best. Another option is putting the rightfooter into the role Bobby Convey was supposed to own, tucked-in high left. This seems less applicable as well in that Chance Myers is the primary overlapping fullback at Livestrong not Seth Sinovic who prefers to cut in on his right–that, of course, would be cutting into the precise space that Feilhaber would be occupying.
And, finally, an unlikely option is putting Feilhaber in the deep-lying Andrea Pirlo role of non-traditional central defensive midfield. As sure as this writer should be castigated for invoking the name of Feilhaber in concert with Pirlo is as sure as this is unlikely. The CDM role will likely be inhabited by point-and-shoot, search-and-destroy options like Peterson Joseph and ex-Barca man (and impressive upcoming MLS sophomore in this guy’s eyes) Oriol Rosell.
Given Vermes demands of his defenders and his eye for them, it’s about a zero percent chance that Feilhaber was brought into to execute at CDM.
The Revs needed to move Feilhaber and, in waiting until the end of the year when he was out of contract and they still owned his rights, they created more value for themselves. Chances are there were a few but not an abundance of suitors for Feilhaber’s services and holding out for a better deal would have perpetuated a less than ideal situation while potential bidders folded their cards as they found other options. Whereas the Revs were locked into Shalrie Joseph and few if any truly promising youngsters less than 20 months ago, now the Revs boast some extra cash kitty, an oleo of promising youngsters and some meaningful draft picks (not to mention Jerry Bengston, a striker who they can likely sell-on and who, in this writer’s opinion, will challenge for the Golden Boot in 2013). Quite a turnaround for their front office.
It’s an excellent gambit for Sporting KC who relied too heavily on bypassing the midfield last year when Graham Zusi wasn’t firing. It’s also quite a coup because Sporting KC failed to secure a replacement for Roger Espinoza in season, meaning they either knew they could get a deal like this done or they were willing to take the risks of what is still a buyer’s market.