Monday, March 26, 2007

First blood

In honor of his first senior cap for the U.S., I hunted around and found one of the first articles I ever wrote that mentioned UCLA walk-on Benny Feilhaber. He'd been one of the last picks by then-coach Sigi Schmid for the 2005 u20 U.S. team in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament.

Schmid admitted that at one point he had doubts about a selection that now seems a brilliant choice – that of Brazilian-born Feilhaber, who has impressed with his poise on the ball – a perfect example of a late-blooming talent coming on strong.

“In my heart of hearts, I felt that Benny was a good player and he deserved to be here. He’s done everything to basically support that decision. He showed that he belonged and continued to get better.”

Feilhaber guessed that he might have been previously overlooked because he did not play extensively for UCLA his first year.

“I think the fact that I got a lot of time on the field this year allowed people to see what kind of player I am.”

Most observers were impressed by the midfielder’s control, timing and ability to find the open spaces. Though he has been in the United States for 14 years now, Feilhaber suspects his Brazilian heritage has influenced his development.

‘I think there’s a lot of my game that’s a little bit Brazilian. I’m usually pretty calm on the ball, and hold the ball and keep possession for my team. But I’ve gotten a lot of the American traits also as a soccer player, which I think have helped me play.”

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