A new year and new coach have offered a fresh start for a number of players who arrived in Carson for January Camp this week. Chief among those getting another opportunity is midfielder Benny Feilhaber, who earned his first call-up since January Camp three years ago.
“It feels amazing. It’s very exciting and something I wasn’t sure would ever happen again,” Feilhaber told reporters this week. “It feels like a second chance, and because of that it’s very motivating. I’m very excited to be back and I want to make my stamp on this camp.”
A member of the USA’s 2010 FIFA World Cup team, Feilhaber’s MNT appearances have been limited ever since, with the midfielder’s last cap coming as a substitute in a 2-0 friendly win against Korea Republic on Feb. 1, 2014, in Carson.
“It didn’t feel like I would be back. I had kind of turned that page a little bit in my career and tried to focus on the things that I could, obviously putting together good MLS seasons.”
That focus served him well. Feilhaber had a resurgent campaign for Sporting Kansas City in 2015, amassing 10 goals and 15 assists as he finished as a finalist for the league’s MVP award. The 31-year-old followed up with similar numbers this past season, finishing with seven goals and 13 assists.
As someone that has watched Feilhaber channel his lack of National Team opportunities through the years towards his club form, Graham Zusi sees the recall of his Sporting KC teammate to the National Team as beneficial across the board.
“I’m very happy for Benny,” Zusi said Thursday. “I think it’s a much deserved call-in. I think he’s looked very sharp during the first couple days of camp. I think you can see a little bit of a pep in his step and excitement in his game right now. It’s going to be good for us with the National Team and it’s going to be very good for us with Sporting as well.”
With 41 international caps to his credit, Feilhaber is one of the most experienced players on the MNT’s January Camp roster. Even though a majority of his international experience occurred prior to 2010, U.S. head coach Bruce Arena agreed that he’s a better player now than he was back then.
"I think he’s a better player, he’s more experienced,” Arena said. “I still think he’s a player the deserves consideration here."
Feilhaber believes he is better equipped than ever to compete at the international level.
“I think when I did play on the National Team with Bob, I was still developing as a player,” he said. “I wasn’t at my best, and I feel like the last two or three seasons I’ve played at my best pretty consistently and it’s exciting to have an opportunity to play at the highest level with your National Team when you are playing at the highest level of your own career.”
Now with another chance, Feilhaber is enjoying his new opportunity and will use the next month to make his case for the World Cup Qualifiers in March.
“I always watched the National Team. It’s always something that I looked very fondly back on when I did have my opportunities with the National Team with Bob, but I kind of closed that book. To have it reopen again unexpectedly was an amazing feeling.”