(Whew, it took some Mission: Impossible moves to get our pics back from confiscation and our message out before Saturday against El Salvador.)
Without further ado, we give you our mancrush piece. Our final salvo.
A few weeks ago, we got a great email in our inbox from a TSG fan named Greg. This happened to coincide with some readers to our publication from ESPN.com to our post entitled, “Paging Bob Bradley: Let’s get Benny and Stu some more run!”
Well now TSG is pulling out all the stops. We’ve ordered about 10,000 vuvuzelas with “Free Benny Now!” on them in an effort to get the U.S. linking midfielder some more playing time, some more starting XI time to be precise. To borrow a catch phrase, “Yes, We Can!”
Those vuvuzelas are not coming soon by the way–budget, economy, you know.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to blare the message. Heading this piece up top, is a pic of my brother Mark from TSG “protesting” outside Soccer House in Chicago. Now it is true that Mark went to Chicago on other professional business (or so he claims), but his commitment to the cause cannot be questioned.
Following below here is the exchange I had with Greg on our profound “love” for Benny Feilhaber. Consider it our man-crush piece. We love you Benny, in the we-want-to-watch-you-on-the-pitch, inflicting-some-serious-offense-against-the-other-team sort of way.
Now, our exchange with Greg and a little hidden way that you too can contribute to our vital cause. Oh, and huge thank you to Greg, who is an extremely astute commentor on our publication. Thanks Greg for the question and exchange–if we ever get around to TSG, uh shinguards….well the first pair is going your way.
Just found your blog today through a link. I was immediately drawn by your focus on Feilhaber. When Benny first stepped on the scene in ’07, I thought he was promising, and this past summer has solidified my view on him (I think he’s as important as you guys do). What I’m hoping is that you guys could give me your description on Feilhaber. Why do you guys think he’s such an impressive player, in general and for the US?
Thanks for reaching out. Thanks for the kind words as well. Glad you liked our blog — might I ask where you saw it?
If you’re talking about Benny, I really think this piece here sort of sums it up.
Beyond that, in Benny Feilhaber, you’re talking about one of the few players who is just extremely comfortable in possession of the ball. In our minds, not a lot of players have this ability and certainly not on the US team. A player like Landon has to be, or let’s say is exceedingly more comfortable attacking with the ball or laying it off ; Landon is not going to work the ball to create multiple opportunities.
Benny, on the other hand, he can either attack or sort of let the situation or game come to him. He balances this with the threat of being just a phenomenal shot taker–he’s got a rocket of a shot (see: Gold Cup Final, 2007).
Mind you this is not new for Benny.
Rumor has it that Benny–beyond his injuries–through poor practice habits or bad attitude, fell out of favor with Bob Bradley after that Gold Cup. Before that, Bob was considering a midfield of Benny and Michael as his senior pairing. Kljestan was a possibility, but not nearly a reality at that point.
In terms of Benny — take a look at right after he enters the Mexico game in the 2nd half. (For those that read the blog, we love pointing out excellent movement by BF with the ball).
There is a flawed exchange between Benny and Holden that showed some wow potential and then a few moments after that (and this probably sums up his value a bit more) BF takes possession in the midfield, gains some space, draws defenders.
When this happens, he gives a simple back pass to Gooch, who then has so much space that he nearly flubs his next pass up-field (to Bradley I believe). The look on Gooch’s face said it all. It was like, “oh wow, you just made this so easy.” Take a look at that play if you can see the replay of the game.
And odd parallel is one of my other favorite players, Michael Essien. Essien is not nearly the offensive creator that Benny is but Jose Mourinho, when at Chelsea, made Essien his main focus when putting his team together. He just had to have Essien on his team. In a different manner, Essien, through possession (mostly his wide body), dictates tempo and controls possession. Very different manner, but very effective.
A more on-target parallel is Kaka. No, we not putting “Benny” in the same league yet, or maybe ever (however they are both Brazilian). But Kaka has a, for lack of a better word, wondrous ability to just make the simple, efficient play and make the game easier for his teammates. Ever notice that when Kaka makes a simple pass it goes precisely where his teammate can most effectively recieve it? It’s like Chris Paul for the New Orleans Hornets of the NBA getting David West or Peja a wide open layup or set shot.
Other players that dictate the play (and maybe that’s the hallmark point here) through simple possession are: Gerrard, Pirlo, and Luka Modric (sadly Modric got bit by the injury bug this past week) to name a few. Benny may or may not be in their class, but he’s got their same “stuff.”
Benny, though needing to work a bit on his reckless D, makes the game easier for others and creates opportunity through his abilities in possession.
That’s why we’re such big fans.
I read the piece on Benny/Holden that you linked in your email. That was actually how I found you guys. I was reading through the comments on Jeff Carlisle’s piece on the US midfield and lack of possession, and one of the commenters linked your piece on Benny and Holden.
I think what drew me to Benny was how much he reminded me of how I played growing up. I played club and high school, and my game was predicated on first-touch, subtle movements and vision. It wasn’t flashy, but it had a positive effect. To me, there was no greater pleasure I got
than making a pass that unlocked the defense, and Feilhaber is the first American player I’ve seen that has the ability to do that at the top level. Few people probably remember, but he made not one but two passes in the US-Italy game during the Confed Cup of that ilk (the one that led to the PK as well as one in the second half that the US subsequently wasted).
I’m not sure I ever fully understood the value that possession can bring, but what I do know is that the tempo of the US team’s play changes every time Benny gets in. The pass he made to Onyewu was a great example.
I’ve only followed the EPL from a very far distance in the past, but I’m planning on paying closer attention this year. Helps that ESPN will be broadcasting some games (albeit at not the most convenient times). Other than Essien, do you have any other players that you recommend keeping an eye on?
Good commentary Greg.
I think in terms of possession it’s nearly as simple as it is in basketball. If you can draw a double team with your threat it opens up all other players.
In terms of the USMNT, they just need possession at times to keep the defense from tiring. You need to maintain possession (another other sport reference) like in American football to give your team a rest *and* tire out the other team — it’s telling that Brazil started scoring in the second half of the Confed Cup — they were playing against defenders who were at 80% or less of d capacity due to exhaustion.
Going to make this into a piece — Thanks.
An exchange on Benny that I think sums up why TSG wants to:
“FREE BENNY NOW”
(Oh, wait, you’re still here? You’ve read the whole piece. You want to contribute to the cause. If so, wear your Benny pride next time out to a game, sports bar, shopping for face paint. People will notice. Some people will ask, “Who’s Benny?” and that’s when you’ll say, “Let me tell you a little story about World Cup 2010….”)
Okay, now Jay DeMerit needs our support.