DAVID SMITH - Monday, January 2, 2012
More than a year since his last appearance in a US jersey, New England midfielder Benny Feilhaber is aiming to re-establish his place on the team and carve out a place in Jürgen Klinsmann's system.
After a strong first year with MLS team New England Revolution where he netted four goals and assisted on another seven despite playing for one of the the lowest-scoring teams in the league, it was no surprise that Feilhaber's name appeared in the list of players called into the annual January national team camp.
While he was included in each of the final two rosters of previous US head coach Bob Bradley, an ankle injury prevented him from take part in the team's disappointing showing in last summer's Gold Cup, and he had yet to receive the call from the German coach.
With the door once again opened on his career for the Stars & Stripes, the Brazilian-born midfielder is clear on his target for the three-plus week camp.
"My personal goals for this camp are to make a good impression to Jürgen and his staff of coaches," Feilhaber told YA. "I want to be a consistent part of the national team again, as does everyone else, so of course it wont be easy."
The last time he took the field in international play was in an October 2010 friendly game against Colombia, and the long absence is one of the aspects driving the former AGF Aarhus star to flourish in the coming weeks.
"I haven't been with the Nats for a long time and of course I'm taking this camp extremely seriously," he asserts. "It's going be very important personally to show the coaches what I can do to help the team in any and every way I can."
"I want to re-establish myself as part of the national team picture and my goal is to be part of the main [group of guys] that helps the US get back to the World Cup once qualifying starts this summer."
With the upcoming camp stretching over more than three weeks and nearly all of the players who have featured regularly so far throughout Klinsmann's tenure not present, the coaching staff will have ample time to shuffle the available squad around to see where they can best contribute.
Feilhaber has proven to be a versatile piece in the midfield on both club and international level with the ability to shift across nearly every position in front of the defense. Even though his brief discussions with Klinsmann have not included any detailed evaluation of what the German has envisioned, he does get the impression that a role in the center of the park would be the best for utilizing his skills within the emerging tactical framework.
"I've had a short conversation with Jürgen recently but not so in depth to know where I would fit into the midfield," he explains.
"Having seen the games under him so far, I think I could play as one of the central midfielders," he continues. "It seems like a place I could be successful on this team, but I'll learn more about Jürgen's ideas once I'm in camp."
Feilhaber began his professional career in Germany at Hamburg and spent two years at the club, making several appearances with the first-team both in Bundesliga and Champions League play.
Even though his greatest on-field successes and majority of his competitive action has come in the years since he left the country, those two years are something which he is confident will be a benefit to his goals now and in the long-term.
"I think that knowing the German mentality and tactical way of playing can potentially help me in understanding Jürgen's intentions with the team more quickly as well as being able to communicate with the German-born players that are new to the team," he concludes.
The camp will commence on January 3 in Phoenix, Arizona, and Feilhaber will likely be in the lineup when they host Venezuela on January 21, and visit Panama four days later.