DAVID SMITH - Thursday, April 21, 2011
After a nearly six-year spell in Europe, American midfielder Benny Feilhaber has officially joined MLS team New England Revolution after leaving Danish club AGF Aarhus, where he had spent the last three seasons.
The Revolution acquired the national team veteran through the league's allocation process for "returning" American internationals after both Chivas USA and Philadelphia Union passed on their options to claim the player.
"We're very pleased that Benny was available to us through the allocation process," Michael Burns, the Vice President of player personnel for New England stated in their official announcement. "Benny is a talented, versatile player who instantly will make our team better. We're looking forward to getting him into a Revolution uniform as soon as possible."
The addition of the 38-times capped international to a midfield that already includes league star Shalrie Joseph gives the team a huge boost in what has so far been a largely mediocre season. The team plays their next game on Saturday when they host Sporting Kansas City, then hit the road one week later with a trip to Chivas.
The surprise announcement of his move stateside came on the final day of the MLS transfer window on April 15, however due to the allocation rules set forth by the league, his ultimate destination took several more days to sort out, with Houston widely reported as active suitors of Feilhaber's services during the whole process.
The 26 year-old World Cup veteran had spent much of the last three seasons with Danish team AGF Aarhus, earning a consistent spot in their starting lineup and becoming a vital cog in their midfield. Injuries ultimately limited his playing time over the three seasons, however he was nevertheless able to amass a total of 58 appearances and score eight goals across league and cup competition.
After Aarhus was relegated from the Danish top flight following the 2009-10 season, much speculation had surrounded a possible move by the Brazilian born American. However as no suitable offers were presented to the team, he remained in their squad as they worked their way back into the Superligaen.
With their promotion now all but assured thanks to a campaign which had seen them lead the league both in goals scored and fewest goals allowed, a simple matter of finances ultimately forced their hand in choosing to let one of their most prized assets go during the final two months of the season.
"AGF and Danish soccer has lost a great player," AGF sporting director Brian Steen Nielsen stated through their website. "We would have liked to have kept Benny, and he would also have liked to stay at AGF, but unfortunately we could not match the offer he had from MLS."
"As his contract was in any case expiring this summer, we felt it was best to let him change teams now and in that way get a small transfer fee out of it."
Feilhaber joined Aarhus in the summer of 2008 after a hugely disappointing season at short-lived English Premier League creampuffs Derby County FC, and fought through a first season filled with various injury concerns to ultimately be one of the more recognized players within Denmark during his three seasons.
"I'm glad for the opportunity I'll have now, but I'm also a little sad because I've had it good in AGF, and I will miss the club, all the fans, my teammates and the city," Feilhaber stated through the team's website.
The American credits his time with the Danish team as a reason for his recent resurgence with the national team.
"The switch to AGF has been good for my career," he evaluated. "AGF is the club in Europe where I felt most comfortable and where I also have made the biggest difference."
"I will always look back at my time of AGF in a positive light, and fortunately everything indicates that the club will soon be back in Super League. It means a lot to me that I have been helping the team on track after relegation."