By Danny Picard
FOXBORO -- @font-face font-family: "Times New Roman";p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; table.MsoNormalTable font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; div.Section1 page: Section1; To think, had Pat Phelan dressed on Saturday night for theNew England Revolution, then perhaps newly acquired midfielder Benny Feilhaberwouldnt have made his first start with his new team.
At least, thats what he said after his Revolution debut.
In the end, its tough to say that I was ready to play, butit all worked out for the best, because I dont know if I would have started,had Pat Phelan not had a little trouble, said Feilhaber. Hes a little bangedup. But in the end, it helped me out a lot, because now Ive played a solid 90minutes, and my fitness is only going to go up from there.
After playing the last six years in Europe, the 26-year-oldwas acquired earlier in the week through the MLS allocation process. Thanks toChivas USA and the Philadelphia Union passing on Feilhabers services, the Revswere quick to add him to their roster.
In hindsight, Feilhabers presence early in the game was inthe best interest of the Revolution.
Phelan missed the game with what the team is callingheadaches and Feilhaber even after having minimal training this week madethe start in the midfield.
Feilhaber played all 90-plus minutes in Saturday nightscome-from-behind 3-2 win over Sporting Kansas City at Gillette Stadium. Hefinished his debut with an assist on New Englands first goal of the match,that went to Marko Perovic in the 12th minute.
Feilhaber is known as an attacking midfielder, and did justthat early in the first half. His slight hesitation at the left wing gave himenough time to push the Kansas City defenders off him, and make a pass toPerovic, who was wide open at the top of the box.
I was really joining the attack a lot on the first half,said Feilhaber. I had the opportunity to get close to the box on that one. Therebound came right to me. I took a touch. I was ready to shoot, but it didntset up perfect for me. Then I had to take a step. The defender kind of drewtowards me, and I saw Marko sitting at the top of the box, so I just kind ofslipped it to him, and he banged it in, he did the rest.
You see the quality he has, and that fakes the oppositionas well, because they dont know whether to stand off him or close him down,said Revolution coach Steve Nicol after the win.
He made a big impact tonight.
Nicol praised Feilhaber after the game, for being able toplay the complete 90 minutes, and produce in the process.
His fitness wasnt really our concern, it was just hissharpness, said Nicol. He hadnt really trained all week. I had a goodconversation with him on Friday, and he said he hadnt really trained all week,which, kind of takes the edge off you. But at the same time, when you have thequalities that hes got, then . . . we can always bring him off.
Hes smart, hes experienced, he uses the ball, addedNicol. He serves his legs by making the ball do all the work. So it wasobvious that he was cruising, and there was no way he was coming off.
Feilhaber said he started to get tired midway through thesecond half, but ddint seem too concerned about it after the game, mainlybecause he understands its going to take more than just one game to get usedto his new surroundings.
On Saturday night, Feilhaber was a difference-maker. And he believes he'll only get better.
Its different, said Feilhaber of the MLS. A higher pace,I think its more physical. Theres a lot of fouls, a lot of cards. But at thesame time, I think, once I get to know the speed of the game and get more usedto it, I think Ill be more effective as well here. Because of the speed of thegame, you tend to have more options to find those little seams, and ball theball to our forwards. Ill keep getting better at that.
More and more, I think people will know what Im about, andIll know what theyre about. And I think Rajko Lekic was one of the guysthat I found a lot behind the defense . . . The more I get to know the guys,and the more they get to know me, Im sure well combine a little bit more, andbe able to find those scoring chances.
Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.