Difference of Opinion
The recent verbal exchange between US Men’s National Team coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, and Sporting Kansas City star, Benny Feilhaber, has been blown out of proportion by the soccer media. Many soccer writers and pundits have reported the exchange in exasperated terms and using sensationalized headlines. In all actuality, it was just two men calmly and collectively expressing their opinions about one another. Unfortunately, in the TMZ-esque world we live in today, it is in vogue to exaggerate and inflate everything.
So what actually happened? In short, Feilhaber stated that he has come to grips with the fact that he will not be part of the National Team picture as long as Klinsmann is the manager. When prodded as to why he feels that way, Benny emphasized that the proof is in the pudding, that over the last two seasons he has played the best soccer of his life, yet Klinsmann has shown zero interest. Benny proclaimed that Klinsmann seemingly possesses the same feelings about a variety of other MLS USMNT outsiders, most notably; Dax McCarty, Matt Hedges, and Sacha Kljestan. Feilhaber then questioned the manner in which Jurgen selects his camp invitees. To sum it up, Feilhaber is perplexed as to what Klinsmann wants in a team and how he rates players.
Klinsmann replied quite candidly, describing Feilhaber as a player who fails to ascend to the caliber of international play. He insisted that his door is always open if Benny wants to know why he hasn’t been extended a camp invite of late. Jurgen was adamant that he doesn’t let his personal feelings get in the way of his selection process, and that generally players fail to grasp all that goes into the National Team selection process. In other words, a coach views things from one perspective, while players view the very same situation from another.
My Two Cents
As far as I am concerned, everything Benny said is 100% spot on. Over the last year and a half I have contemplated how and why the likes of Dax and Feilhaber have yet to be called into a camp. Klinsmann has continuously stated a prospective player must be playing well for their club to be considered. I defy Klinsmann to name two midfielders in MLS who have played as consistently well as Dax and Benny over the last two seasons. His ongoing failure to invite a variety of noteworthy MLSers has drawn the ire of many MLS executives and fans.
In Feilhaber’s defense, what exactly have the likes of Michael Orozco, Joe Corona, or Alejandro Bedoya shown on the international level? How about our old pal, Jermaine Jones? When the next World Cup kicks off, Jones will be collecting social security, yet Klinsmann keeps shoehorning him into the National Team picture as if he will be an integral member of the squad. A 36 year old broken down defensive midfielder at a World Cup, is like bringing a 1987 Chevette to the Chicago Auto Show. It is laughable!
While it may be true that players, fans, and journalists alike are not privy to the inner workings of the selection process, what Feilhaber expressed doesn’t seem too far off the mark. And for Jurgen to say he doesn’t make decisions based on personal feelings, the Landon Donovan fiasco is case and point of Klinsmann’s gargantuan ego. He wanted to show that the USMNT was his team so he gave Landy the old heave ho. Period! A quality coach must set aside personal resentment for the betterment of the team. The team comes first; your feelings come a distant second.
I will give Klinsmann credit for answering as frankly as he did but I disagree with his evaluation of Benny. The man has proven he is an international caliber player numerous times in the past and he is a better player today than he was then. Given Jurgen’s assessment that Feilhaber failed to perform at the international level in previous call ups, let’s keep in mind that his last camp invite was two years ago. Coincidentally, Feilhaber has played the best soccer of his career since then. If inexplicably he wasn’t capable then, perhaps he is now. Why not give Benny, Dax, and other worthy MLSers a chance?