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Sporting KC Should Trade Benny Feilhaber

Take a deep breathe and dive in for the “why” behind this.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Sporting KC Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Alright casual fans, calm down. No need to burn the comments section down on this story. I’m a Benny Feilhaber fan. I’m a huge fan! I’d go as far as to say he is my favorite player on the team. He’s definitely my wife and daughter’s favorite player on Sporting Kansas City.

It’s simply time to move on.

The Benny Feilhaber of 2017 is very far removed from the the Benny Feilhaber of 2015. Let’s look at the statistics.

Feilhaber’s SKC Stats

2017 30 24 5 2269 3 64 20 35 0 4 0
2016 30 28 7 2563 13 45 13 33 1 3 0
2015 32 30 10 2731 15 48 17 44 1 8 1
2014 31 30 4 2607 6 47 13 44 1 6 0
2013 27 22 3 1774 4 33 12 26 1 4 0

In 2015 Benny was a candidate for MLS MVP. He played the most games of his MLS career (32), had the most goals (10) and most assists (15). Many would say that 2016 was a pretty big drop off but he still played in 30 games, had seven goals and 13 assists.

Then look at 2017. Still 30 games, but only five goals and three (!) assists. Feilhaber is supposed to be played the number 10 role in the midfield. That’s the attacking midfield role. The creator role. Three assists is unacceptable.

For a point of comparison, the New York Red Bulls Sacha Kljestan, who is also 32-years-old (like Benny), had 17 assists this season, 20 last year and 14 the year before. Now obviously Kljestan has better finishers around him. Bradley Wright-Phillips is great at putting away goals.

Maybe a more fair way to look at the stats would be to compare chances created. Try as I might, I don’t have access to Opta’s stats but has a stat called “Key Passes” that is comparable. Kljestan is the best in the league with 3.5 per game. Benny is 13th in the league at 2.1 per game. For the record, Graham Zusi is 9th in the league with 2.5 per game. So some of this falls on the lack of finishing by Sporting KC.

That is further supported by the numbers from 2016. Kljestan is again first in key passes with 3.3 per game. Benny was 14th with 2.0 per game. So the drop off in finishing by Dom Dwyer really hurt his assist numbers.

But it’s not just stats. It’s about age too. By the start of the 2018 season Feilhaber will be 33-years-old. Feilhaber didn’t play a lot when he was young overseas so he should have a lot left in his legs. Watching him in 2017 though left me wanting more.

He simply didn’t seem like the same Benny. He played the same amount of games but started four less and and played about 300 minutes less. Think back to the Benny Feilhaber who played the Seattle Sounders in the 2016 MLS Cup Playoff Knockout Round. He took over that game (despite not getting the win). I’m not sure where I saw it, but someone mentioned they wouldn’t be surprised if Benny has a nagging injury that’s been bothering him all year. That would certainly explain things or it could simply be father time. He’s still undefeated after all.

Now moving Benny wouldn’t be popular but it’s probably the right thing to do. He’s making $600,000 in 2017 and is under contract through 2018. On top of that Robb Heineman has indicated the club will be looking for a new number nine and number 10.

I don’t imagine when Heineman says “we will invest” he doesn’t mean more money in Benny. After all, this team is loaded with money from the Dom Dwyer trade. $1.6 million will buy down a lot of salaries and the ownership group has the money if they want to go make a big splash. Buy down the Zusi Designated Player charge or Espinoza (if he comes back, he has an option for 2018 but isn’t officially in the fold for next year) and bring in a true striker and number 10. The defense isn’t broke.

I would love Sporting to find a way to keep Benny as a super sub. If he doesn’t have to go 90 minutes every game he can still contribute. It’s hard to spend $600K on a backup but at a reduced price, I’m in. But there is simply no indication Feilhaber would play for less. And why should he?

If he is being overpaid it’s quite possible that no one would want to trade for him. If you are Sporting, unlike the Dom deal, you wouldn’t need to get as much in return as long as they go find an upgrade. Or maybe they just keep Benny, despite how overpaid, and just go all in for 2018. The club has lots of expiring contracts in 2018 (Besler, Zusi, etc.) so it could be the last hurray for this core before this thing gets blown up.

I always love when I start with a premise that you should do one thing and I end the article with the opposite.