DAVID SMITH - Tuesday, May 3, 2011
After transferring from AGF Aarhus to MLS, Benny Feilhaber feels the lessons learned from his time in Europe have strengthened him as a player and prepared him for the challenges lying ahead.
The midfielder's deadline-day move from the almost-crowed Danish First Division champions to MLS took many by surprise, as he had clearly staked his claim on a starting role with a team which was all but mathematically assured of promotion back to the top flight.
After the dust had settled on the transfer and allocation process set forth by MLS, the national team veteran was finally claimed by Eastern Conference strugglers New England Revolution, giving him another chance to play a pivotal role for a team looking to improve their fortunes.
While he unquestionably views the move as a positive step forward for his career, Feilhaber does admit that some elements built over his nearly three seasons in Aarhus will be sorely missed.
"I'm definitely gonna miss everything about Denmark," Feilhaber admitted, "but I will miss my friends that I made on the team more than anything."
Aarhus' temporary exile in the second level of Danish soccer along with the emergence of a number of quality midfield options for the US national Team had raised some questions as to whether a season out of the top tier would damage his standing in Bob Bradley's squad in the near future.
Feilhaber insists, however, that such concerns played at best a peripheral role in ultimately choosing to embark so suddenly on the next phase of his career.
"It wasn't too much about that," he states in regards to the involvement of national team selection in his move, continuing, "it was just in general a good move for my career at the moment."
Even though he will now be playing several time zones west of the stadium which he called home for so long, there will still be some occasional reminders of Denmark crossing his path, namely a slow stream of players from the country which are gradually making their way to the burgeoning league.
Specifically, Feilhaber will be forming an on-field partnership with New England winter signing Rajko Lekic, who did manage to make an impression on the American during the few times they had met in previous seasons.
Feilhaber looks forward to feeding the former Silkeborg forward passes from the midfield, and is positive he can be a strong player to help the team as they tackle their opponents in the Eastern Conference.
"I played against Rajko a couple times and he's a really tricky forward," Feilhaber complimented. "[He] always seems to find himself in dangerous positions and score goals. He works hard and he'll always be a pest for other defenses to take care of."
If there was any downside to his sudden transfer, it was that it came about and was completed entirely between a pair of games for Aarhus, preventing him from taking a true farewell bow in front of the home fans which had called him one of their own.
He is happy, however that he did at least have one last chance to say farewell to the team's supporters, albeit officially as an Aarhus alum, in his final day before boarding a flight across the Atlantic to his new home.
"Yea it was a bit sad in that sense," he admits of missing the opportunity for an official bon voyage in his final home game. "But I got to say goodbye to the fans my last day there, when we played Viborg, so it was nice to have been able to do that."
Above all, the World Cup veteran is pleased with his nearly six seasons spent in three different European environments, and is confident that the will be reaping the benefits wherever his career will take him.
"It was definitely my mental strength," Feilhaber evaluates of the most beneficial aspect of his overseas experience. "It has grown exponentially with the tough lessons I learned in Europe."
"I will always cherish my experience in Europe at such a young age and use it to better my soccer in MLS."