A Few Minutes With Benny Feilhaber
You remember, Benny, right? Brazilian-born midfielder who grew up in New York and California, went to UCLA before heading to Europe to sign with Hamburg and then Derby County, and at age 22, scored a mighty-fine winning goal against Mexico in the 2007 Gold Cup final and then made the 2008 Olympic squad in China? Yup, that's the guy. Amid injuries and other issues, Feilhaber seemed to disappear from the USA national team radar last year, but in perhaps Bob Bradley's biggest roster surprise last week, the Denmark-based player was invited back for this week's qualifiers against Costa Rica and Honduras.
Having arrived in CR last night after playing a league match Sunday -- his journey took him from Aarhus to Copenhagen to Newark to San Jose -- he appears unlikely to be in uniform tomorrow or Saturday. However, his mere presence means he is under consideration for the Confederations Cup (hmmm) and Gold Cup (perhaps).
For more insight on his status, read the Insider's Q&A on the continuation of this thread. First, though, a look back at his spectacular goal against Mexico two years ago:
How many times have you played 90 minutes recently?
"Twice in the last three weeks. My fitness can still improve, but I feel good. The fitness is getting to a level where it hasn't been in a long, long time because of the injury. Until these last few games, I really hadn't played 90 in, I think, a year. So that is definitely one of the biggest goals for me. It's coming slowly."
Describe your knee injuries the past year?
"I had a meniscus injury and then a cartilage injury in the same knee, so it's been tough to overcome. They had to do with each other. First I had the meniscus, then I came back and got the cartilage injury where the meniscus was missing. I had two surgeries -- in May of last year and then another one in September to clean it up."
Where on the field have you been playing for Aarhus?
"As a central midfielder, a little more offensive. It's a similiar style to how we play with the U.S. team with the two center mids playing off each other. A few times, when I was first coming into games, I was playing random positions -- striker, on the left, on the right -- but for the most part, I was in the middle."
How does it feel to be back in USA camp?
"It's been a long, long time and it's nice to be back. I know it's still the early stages of being back and trying to play the kind of football I think I can play, but it's nice to be in the mix again. With getting my fitness back and feeling healthy, I can start showing again what I can do."
Were you surprised you were called in?
"Yeah, I was surprised for these games. I thought I had a chance of maybe playing in one of the two tournaments this summer. Obviously, the Confederations Cup is going to be a huge tournament for us to test ourselves. I would expect nothing less than our best guys going out there. Right now, I can't consider myself at that top level yet, but I would like to earn it and get there. The Gold Cup would be a good stage as well. It was a surprise to come in this early in the summer, but it's great and I'm happy to be here. ... I talked to Bob a little bit yesterday to find out what is going on with the rest of the summer, but I don't think he is even sure yet who he's bringing to South Africa next week. I'm just here to train, do the best I can, and if Bob needs me for one of the two qualifiers, if he doesn't need me for any of the games, whatever, I am just here to show him that I am back, I am healthy and he can rely on me if he needs me."
The goal you scored against Mexico, do you think that unfairly accelerated or raised expectations of you?
"Maybe. That goal, some fans might think that I showed I can do it once and I should do it more often. Some fans might think that, because of that one goal, I received too much attention. It can go either way. The pressure for me to become a better player really comes from myself. Of course, that goal was a strike you are not going to hit every day, but when I was playing at that time, I felt good about where I was. Copa America was right after the Mexico game and I got to play against some great teams. So I don't think it had to do with the goal, but more about where I was as a player back then. I know I can reach that level again."
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