Benny Feilhaber on pace for career year with SKC, deserves Gold Cup call-up

By Drew Farmer – Twitter: @CalcioFarmer

Benny Feilhaber joined Sporting Kansas City ahead of the 2013 season in a blockbuster Major League Soccer trade from New England Revolution. His arrival, a coup for the club, was seen as a young attacking team only getting stronger as Feilhaber joined the likes of top Sporting stars Graham Zusi and Matt Besler.

While Feilhaber played an important part in 2013, helping Sporting lift the MLS Cup, the midfielder was always another cog in the team wheel. The 2014 season, a down year in terms of the rise Sporting had shown since their move to Sporting Park, was a solid, if not unspectacular campaign.

However this season, Feilhaber’s third in the Midwest, the US international is putting up career numbers. In 14 games this term, Feilhaber has five goals and seven assists, surpassing his offensive output in his MLS career thus far.

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His current contributions have put the former Derby County man head-to-head with Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco in an early season dual for the league’s MVP award.

Since April 19, Sporting are unbeaten in a seven game stretch that has seen the team rise up the Western Conference table. That run of form has seen the midfielder score all five of his goals as well as add one assist to his 2015 resume.

In last weekend’s win over the Seattle Sounders, it was Feilhaber’s coolly placed penalty that helped the team defeat their Western Conference rivals. That penalty, though won from a contentious foul, helped Sporting beat Seattle for the first time since 2009; and pulled the club to within two points of the Sounders.

“It’s great to reverse the fortune for us,” the midfielder explained to SportingKC.com. “We definitely didn’t want to give up anything late.

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“That has been a problem when we’ve played against them [Seattle] and it was nice to get one late for ourselves.

“Like I keep saying, the most important thing for us is that we keep getting three points and we are very happy with that. We are happy to get that in front of our fans and I think that goes a long way in the standings.”

This summer will mark the eight year anniversary of the midfielder’s winning goal against Mexico in the 2007 edition of the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament. The USA will kickoff this year’s Gold Cup campaign on July 7 against Honduras.

Currently, Feilhaber is on the outside looking in on Jurgen Klinsmann’s US Men’s National Team. Based on form, there is no reason Feilhaber shouldn’t be in the team’s squad for this summer’s Gold Cup. But Klinsmann has shown US soccer fans that he is his own man when selecting players.

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Feilhaber’s last call-up was in February 2014 when he made an appearance against South Korea. While form over the course of the last three seasons hasn’t necessarily warranted a call-up compared to his contemporaries, the former Gold Cup winner is deserving of one now.

While Feilhaber may be the USA’s loss, Sporting coach Peter Vermes will be happy to have his star midfielder sitting out. Sporting are playing well and a repeat of the club’s 2013 MLS Cup winning form is apparent. With the fewest number of losses in MLS in 2015, Sporting’s ”Blue Hell” is proving a heaven for Benny Feilhaber.

Follow Drew Farmer on Twitter @Calciofarmer. Drew Farmer is a Manchester, England-based journalist/blogger that has written for Forza Italian Football and World Soccer Talk. Originally from southwest Missouri, Drew covers Italy’s Serie A, English football and US soccer.

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Revealed: The stat that makes 2015 a record year in MLS

We might only be a third of the way through the 2015 MLS season but it’s already been a record year because of these bizarre statistic.

There have been two games this season without a single save being made by either goalkeeper, with only a total of four matches in MLS history boasting that stat.

The two games this year saw contrasting results, which makes the statistic all the more shocking.

The 0-0 draw between FC Dallas and Seattle Sounders in March saw zero shots on target and therefore no saves, only the first time since 2009 that a game ended without a single save being made.

Sporting Kansas City and Houston Dynamo then played out what is probably the most entertaining game of the season in April in that 4-4 draw at BBVA Compass Stadium.

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Staggeringly, that game saw just eight shots on target, with all of them ending up in the back of net.

Luis Marin and Tyler Deric failed to make a single save between them and that means 2015 has seen two games end without a save – the same number of games as in the 19 previous seasons.

This table below shows the four MLS games in history that have ended without a single save being made:

Date

Match Result

Shots On Goal

May 18th 2005

Real Salt Lake 2-0 Chivas USA

2

April 4th 2009

LA Galaxy 2-3 Colorado Rapids

5

March 28th 2015

FC Dallas 0-0 Seattle Sounders

0

April 25th 2015

Houston Dynamo 4-4 Sporting Kansas City

8

Interestingly, there has never been a game without a save after the month of May and so the chances of another one of these bizarre games this season look slim.

Should San Jose Earthquakes fans be concerned by this worrying statistic?

San Jose Earthquakes have established themselves as the surprise package at the start of the 2015 MLS season with five wins from their opening 11 games (D2, L4) and can be delighted with their performances in the early stages.

The Earthquakes have already recorded some impressive results with victories at home to Vancouver Whitecaps and Columbus Crew, as well as an excellent 3-2 road win against Seattle Sounders, despite going down to ten men after 52 minutes.

Dominic Kinnear has returned to San Jose as the head coach this season after an eight-year spell with the Houston Dynamo, guiding them to fourth place in the Western Conference and sixth in the overall Supporters’ Shield standings with a total of 17 points.

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Despite the excellent start to the season, there may be a slight cause for concern for the Earthquakes. At the same stage of last season, they had 13 points on the board from 11 games, just four points less than their current total this time around.

San Jose then went on to finish bottom of the Western Conference and second bottom of the Supporters’ Shield standings with just 30 points amassed come the end of the campaign.

A barren run of 15 games without a win at the end of last season heavily affected the Earthquakes’ final position in the table, so Kinnear will be desperate to ensure that his side avoid a similar type of capitulation in 2015.

A playoff finish for San Jose Earthquakes would almost certainly be an impressive achievement and if they can maintain their current form, there is no reason why they won’t be competing for the MLS Cup title in the post-season.

MLS Goal of the Week: Week 1 – Vote now!

The first weekend of the 2015 Major League Soccer season is behind us and we’ve seen all 20 teams in action in what was a dramatic but exciting round of matches.

There were 16 goals scored in the ten matches this week but it’s time for you to choose what you think was the best goal of the opening weekend.

We’ve picked what we think are the five best goals from week 1 and now it’s up to you to vote for your favourite before Thursday night. Voting will close at midnight in the UK on Thursday.

Goal A: Clint Dempsey – Seattle Sounders

Goal B: Lloyd Sam – New York Red Bulls

Goal C: Giles Barnes – Houston Dynamo

Goal D: Mix Diskerud – New York City FC

Goal E: Robbie Keane – LA Galaxy

MLS 2015 Season Preview: Sporting Kansas City

As the 2015 season is now just four days away, the excitement is building. We’ve had a new MLS 2015 Season Preview up everyday in the build up and today we take a look at what Sporting Kansas City will be looking to achieve this season…

Sporting Kansas City endured a long and tough season last time out as they limped into the MLS Playoffs only to be knocked out by the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference playoff game. They will take part in the Western Conference in 2015 as the arrivals of New York City FC and Orlando City SC has seen Sporting KC moved back to the West for the first time since 2004, a season in which they were runners-up for the MLS Cup title but won their first-ever US Open Cup. Manager Peter Vermes has seen many changes to his squad this season and will hope a change of opposition in the West can spark a comeback challenge for the championship in 2015.

Dom Dwyer was a real spark as he netted 22 goals in 31 regular season starts and if he can build on his form then Sporting KC will be a real force. The resigning of Roger Espinoza has strengthened the squad but the loss of centre-back Aurelien Collin could affect their defensive stability.

Last season’s finish: Eastern Conference – P34 – W14 – D7 – L13

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What needs to change this year?

Consistency was a problem in 2014. Sporting Kansas City had a great run of form through the middle of the season but ended the year by losing seven of their last ten. Fitness was a key factor as Matt Besler and Graham Zusi looked exhausted after the USMNT’s World Cup campaign and could not help the side to achieve. Sporting Park needs to become a fortress once more if the club are to do well in a fiercely competitive Western Conference this year as they had the seventh-worst home record last season. Picking up more points on the road than at home is a concern and something that must change from the word go.

Key changes to the squad:

Ins: Bernardo Anor – Midfielder, Jalil Anibaba – Defender, Krisztian Nemeth – Forward, Luis Marin – Goalkeeper, Roger Espinoza – Midfielder, Servando Carrasco – Midfielder.

Outs: Antonio Dovale – Midfielder, Lawrence Olum – Midfielder, Soony Saad – Forward, Aurelien Collin – Defender, CJ Sapong – Forward, Sal Zizzo – Midfield/Forward, Claudio Bieler – Forward, Jorge Claros – Midfielder, Eric Kronberg – Goalkeeper.

Key Player: Dom Dwyer – Forward

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Dom Dwyer was incredible last year as he scored 24 goals across all competitions and led the line perfectly for Sporting Kansas City all season. He lacked support at times but the additions of Nemeth and Espinoza, as well as the return of a fully fit Zusi should only make Dwyer more dangerous. The English forward seems to improve with each game and is undoubtedly a favourite for the Golden Boot come the end of the campaign.

One to watch: Krisztian Nemeth – Forward

Krisztian Nemeth has joined the club this offseason and can play on the wing as well as the main striker. He has already netted five goals and picked up an assist this preseason and looks like he could be a real threat. His versatility will make him a real asset for Peter Vermes this season and the Hungarian is certainly someone to keep an eye on.

Predicted finish: Western Conference – 6th

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Sporting Kansas City may take time to adjust to life back in the Western Conference, especially with the quality of teams around them this year. It looks set to be another tough campaign and a lot will depend on how well the team deal with such long trips. No other clubs are closer than a seven-hour drive and that could be a factor. Still, you can expect Sporting KC to make the playoffs for the fifth straight year and from there they could be dangerous. If Zusi and Besler can get back to their best then Sporting KC could be challenging right at the top of the Western but it may take time to adjust to a new conference with so many new players.

What are you expecting from Sporting Kansas City in 2015?

Teal Bunbury: We can win the MLS Cup

Teal Bunbury believes New England Revolution can win trophies in 2015 after an “unbelievable” first year with the club.

“The welcoming I got throughout the whole year just progressed and it was an unbelievable season. I enjoyed every minute of it. It was exciting and I’m still excited to this day to be part of the Revs,” said Bunbury while talking to the New England Revolution YouTube channel.

Bunbury joined the Revs after a four-year spell at Sporting Kansas City and chipped in with six goals and eight assists from his 35 appearances in all competitions.

The 24-year-old forward come winger is in a confident mood heading into the new season.

“I hope it’s just like last year, I want it to be a progression. I want to be able to give all I can on the field. And this year, I feel we can win the MLS Cup and Open Cup as well.”

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New England Revolution fell just short of winning their first ever MLS Cup in 2014 when they lost 2-1 to LA Galaxy after an extra-time winner from Robbie Keane in what was a pulsating final.

The Revs have now been to five MLS Cup finals and have failed to get over the line on every occasion, but Bunbury feels this New England side has the spirit to finally win that elusive title in 2015.

“When you’re a player it’s all about winning games, it’s about winning championships and that’s really what you play for. You obviously want do well individually, but as a team I feel this group of guys has the best chemistry I’ve seen on any team, through my club days when I was younger up until now.”

Can Teal Bunbury and the New England Revolution win the MLS Cup in 2015?

Seattle Sounders midfielder Andy Rose full of praise for “fantastic” Gonzalo Pineda

Andy Rose is a midfielder that is very much still learning his trade at Seattle Sounders, but believes he’s developed his own game by being around players such as Gonzalo Pineda.

“He’s a fantastic player”, Rose told the Seattle Sounders YouTube channel. “Obviously you don’t play for the Mexican national team unless you have something special.  The way he collects the ball, how quickly he plays, his fitness levels are incredible.”

The 24-year-old Australian only featured six times in the 2014 MLS regular season, which gave him plenty of time to study Pineda’s style of play and it’s helped him learn crucial elements of becoming a successful midfielder.

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“He floats around, he’s very smart on the ball, he always knows what he’s going to do with it before he gets it, so these are things I think I’ve developed watching him and playing with him.”

Rose is also sure that a career in coaching is sat waiting for Pineda when he finally has to hang up his boots.

“He’s great with me, I think he’s going to go on and be a great coach just because he’s always talking to the youngsters and giving them little words of advice here and there, so obviously a great guy to learn from.”

Will Andy Rose step-up and become an important player for Seattle Sounders in 2015?

New York Red Bulls assistant coach Denis Hamlett says his “experience can help”

Denis Hamlett has joined up with Jesse Marsch as the New York Red Bulls assistant coach and is confident that their good relationship can have a positive influence on the club.

The pair previously worked together as the coaching team at Montreal Impact in the 2012 season and achieved a seventh place finish in the Eastern Conference.

When speaking to the New York Red Bulls YouTube channel, Hamlett said, “I’m extremely excited to be here with the staff and working with Jesse. I think the last ten days has gone really well for us in terms of the guys working hard, adjusting to the demands that Jesse wants the team to play.”

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Understanding

“We have a good relationship, but at the same time I think when we get on the field, I understand the things that he wants to get accomplished with the group, so I feel that it’s a good balance of me knowing him, but more importantly just getting stuff done on the field.”

“Because I know him so well, I understand the things that he wants to get accomplished from our days of working together in Chicago, so a lot of the stuff we do is similar.”

“I think my experiences can help him get across the messages that he wants his team to play and look like, and just be there as a good resource, I think that’s important.”

Will Jesse Marsch and Denis Hamlett work well together in 2015?

Innocent Emeghara full of passion and expectation with San Jose

New San Jose Earthquakes signing Innocent Emeghara has wasted no time in getting involved with the team as he trained with his new teammates at the earliest opportunity after officially joining the club on Monday.

The Swiss striker joins the Earthquakes as a Designated Player and he has outlined his message for the fans in a video interview on the club’s official site that showed how excited the 25-year-old is to be involved in MLS with the team.

Emeghara is the fourth San Jose DP in the club’s history and he joins the team at a time when the future’s looking bright as the team prepare to play in their brand new Avaya Stadium in 2015 under returning head coach Dominic Kinnear.

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The Quakes finished bottom of the Western Conference with just six wins last season, the joint lowest in MLS, and so things can only improve.

Emeghara showed real passion in his introductory interview as he signalled his intentions for the season:

“America is the future,” he said. “I will try to do my best job in the best city and in the best country in the world.

“When I’m on the pitch I just like to play football and to do everything just to help the team. Football is a team game and it’s very important that I work together with the coach, the team and we have to try to win every game.

“That’s the first step we have to take. We must try to win every game. In every training session we have to give everything.”

Emeghara is blessed with pace and he will hope to help San Jose get off to a fast start in MLS when the new season gets underway next month.

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He went on to address the fans in his interview and his words will fill even the most pessimistic Earthquakes fan with some optimism.

“For the fans, I am happy to be here and I think you are also happy to have me here. We have a new home now, a new stadium with new players.

“I want you to come and watch the matches and see how good and hardworking we are and we are going to give you the best we can and do everything to win every match.”

Emeghara looks like he could be a fan-favourite straight away in San Jose and supporters will hope the passion he showed in his message will be translated by his performances on the pitch.

Will Innocent Emeghara be a star with the San Jose Earthquakes in MLS this season?

Montreal Impact new signing Eric Alexander says players “have to push” each other

Midfielder Eric Alexander has recently joined Montreal Impact following two successful seasons at New York Red Bulls and has already spoken positively of how the team can improve.

When speaking to his new club’s YouTube channel this week, he said, “competition is always good in positions and it brings out the best in players. There are a lot of good players here, especially in the middle so it’s going to be tough but I think it’s going to be good for the club overall because we’re going to have to push each other.”

He also added that he hopes to bring “competitiveness” into positions where he may be playing and will “push” his teammates in order to try and “make everybody better.”

Eric Alexander is an experienced MLS player and has also had spells with FC Dallas and Portland Timbers before his time in New York.

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Settling in at a new club can sometimes be a daunting prospect, even for the most decorated professional players, but it isn’t something that fazes the 26-year-old.

“It’s my fourth team in six years so being traded is nothing new. You always know it can happen, but I’m pretty excited to be here and I’m looking forward to getting started.”

Alexander sees his strongest position as a central ‘box-to-box’ midfielder and said, “my better stretch of games came last year when I played in the middle, I think that’s my more natural position, but I don’t mind playing out wide at all. I’m not your typical winger but I still feel I can contribute.”

How important will Eric Alexander be for Montreal Impact in the 2015 MLS season?