It’s interesting to see where Jurgen Klinsmann strategically picks his spots to be a little more revealing about those highly scrutinized personnel choices.
Sometimes he just says “This Guy” is ahead of “That Guy” and leaves it there. (Still more than you get from some coaches.)
Other times, the U.S. manager drops the bucket deeper into the knowledge well and pulls out a little more for consumption from a thirsty public. We get that today with the mercurial Benny Feilhaber.
So many U.S. Soccer supporters wonder why Feilhaber, a technically gifted midfielder who was part of the American World Cup team two-and-half years back in South Africa, cannot gain more traction under Klinsmann.
Feilhaber had one appearance last year. It lasted 61 minutes in a February friendly … then he was gone. For the rest of the year Feilhaber got as many minutes as Thomas Dooley – and he hasn’t been part of the program for 15 years.
So the January camp and the friendly against Canada represented huge opportunity for Feilhaber, who hasn’t always assimilated smoothly into the larger group dynamic. Klinsmann said Monday that Feilhaber had a good camp and left a “really positive impression” on the staff.
“And also he played a really decent second half against Canada,” Klinsmann said.
So why, then, was Feilhaber not part of the 24-man selection announced Monday for this week’s World Cup qualifier against Honduras? Clearly, the technical ability is there. Even Klinsmann says so.
“He’s right there! He is always in our discussion when we put a roster together,” Klinsmann said via teleconference Monday.
When asked (OK … When I asked … ) if Klinsmann could help us understand what Feilhaber needed to get himself past this plateau, the U.S. coach did take us a little deeper.
“We want him to become more of a ‘pusher’ in terms of being more involved in the game. And on a consistent basis, meaning every couple minutes, every two or three minutes. Here and there it seems like he is fading out and then coming back in.
“He’s a little inconsistent, but he’s working on that. That has to do obviously with the technical approach, but also with the physicality of the game, the rhythm and the pace of the game.”
Klinsmann mentioned conversations with Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes about this very subject and predicted that SKC’s demanding coach will push Feilhaber to improve on those very elements. Given Sporting’s high pressure, go-go style, Feilhaber will have little choice. If he drifts or becomes too static for SKC it will be obvious to everyone to see, because his teammates will be zipping and zooming at a measurably greater speed around him.
Klinsmann also mentioned “time lines” and “urgency.” Here the message to all players could not be clearer: It’s time! Make a move now, get into the qualifiers – or risk being left behind for Brazil 2014. That, of course, is almost every soccer players’ dream, to find themselves in a World Cup.
“We think he absolutely has the qualities, has the technical ability to be part of the inner circle of the national team,” Klinsmann said. “Not being called in for this game doesn’t mean he’s out of the picture.
“We expect for Benny to push it now, to show with his club team and when he has a chance coming into our group. Because with World Cup qualifiers and [this summer’s CONCACAF] Gold Cup, there will be opportunities for Benny coming up.”