When Benny Feilhaber stepped into the Pinnacle National Development Center where Sporting Kansas City now trains, it was like coming home to a place he had never stepped foot inside. Sporting KC started training there at the start of the 2018 season and Feilhaber was scheduled to get his first look at along with the rest of the team but that didn’t happen until this week.
In early January of 2018, Feilhaber received a text letting him know when he would get his first look at the state-of-art training center. The next day, manager Peter Vermes called him to tell him he had been traded to Los Angeles FC. Nearly a year-and-half later, Feilhaber returned to Sporting KC after the Colorado Rapids traded him to SKC and he received his tour.
And a fine...
He was late for the team breakfast. Welcome back Benny. +
When he first stepped out for practice, Feilhaber and several former and now current team mates greeted each other and chatted before practice. Trainers, coaches and staff all were happily greeted by the returning midfielder.
Since he just flew in to Kansas City this morning, Vermes did not integrate him immediately back into practice. He jogged around the massive training pitch with a couple players coming back from or nursing minor injuries. Typical Feilhaber, he did not stop talking the whole time.
Even when introduced to the media, he went around chatting and saying to hello to familiar faces but never stopping the running stream of consciousness that is Benny at his best. That is how he revealed his late-to-breakfast fine and he walked into the interview room.
A perfect fit?
Bringing Benny Feilhaber back to Sporting Kansas City looks like it could be a good move for both player and club. Feilhaber knows the team, the coach and the system and Sporting KC gets a player with the ability to play anywhere in the midfield. Sporting KC provides Feilhaber with a place to play where he is comfortable, fits in and is still a fan favorite and gives them a locker room presence that will push players to be better.
With a fluctuating number of injuries that has SKC hopes has hit the peak, they have not been able to even fill out their 18-man gameday roster lately, Feilhaber can start or come off the bench in multiple spots and roles.
Vermes acknowledged that with the injured list, they needed another player but with Benny they get more than just another player.
“First and foremost, we are obviously at a difficult time, we needed to add someone to our team that brings, it’s more than can play. Everyone knows that Benny can play, that’s an easy one. But I also think that Benny has a personality, that he probably doesn’t even realize but I’ve always liked for a specific reason. What he does is he is not afraid to put people on edge a little bit and I think having that in the team is good,” Vermes explained.
“I also think that he is someone that at this time can help us immensely on the field through this tough time when we have a lot of guys missing,” Vermes continued. “He knows the way we play, all the qualities he has as a player, they don’t just fit, they enhance what we are trying to do. From that point of view, it was a great addition for us at this time.”
Feilhaber wanted to come back
One thing with Feilhaber, he is not going to tell you he is happy if he isn’t. Returning to the team where he had his best success is a big part of his happiness with the trade. “I’m 34 years old, I don’t know how many more years I’m going to play. I want to be on a team that is competitive and fighting for championships, so I was very excited about the opportunity to come here and very glad that it happened, me winding back up here where I consider the best five years of my career,” Feilhaber told the media.
“It’s exciting to be part of this group where I think as much as the team has struggled in the past few games, the quality is there. Some of the quality isn’t healthy right now but I think the quality is there to become a championship team this year, or else I wouldn’t have come here. Or I wouldn’t have wanted to come here, theoretically it’s not my choice with how trades are, but I really wanted to come here and that is one of the big reasons,” Feilhaber stated with his usual candor.
Feilhaber played in Kansas City for five years the first time, from 2013 through the 2017 season before his trade to LAFC. In that time, Feilhaber helped Sporting KC to an MLS Cup in 2013 and two U.S. Open Cups (2015 and 2017) and should have earned more callups to the U.S. Men’s National Team.
While Sporting KC’s system continues to evolve, it is not totally different than when Feilhaber was last in Kansas City. “Obviously, I played here for 5 years. I know Peter pretty well; I know the system pretty well. Even the players I wasn’t here with I know pretty well because I follow the team even when I haven’t been here. So I think there is an element of knowing what I am getting when I come here and I think the same thing goes for the club in getting me.”
“I hope it is a lot of the same as when I was here, we won a lot together, it was a really successful 5 years,” Feilhaber added.