Sporting Kansas City midfielder Benny Feilhaber brought some hot takes to MLS Media Day on Tuesday, expressing his displeasure with the way U.S. men’s national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann selects his players.
Feilhaber, who had the unfortunate pleasure of celebrating his 31st birthday answering questions in a room full of journalists, said he doesn’t understand Klinsmann’s criteria for selecting players for national team call-ups, saying “I don’t think that Jurgen calls in the best players that are available to him.”
“In regards to how a coach should approach a team, not just a national team, but just any team, there’s obviously two duties,” Feilhaber said. “One, that’s making the best team that you can possibly make with the players that are available to you and Two, try to continuously improve that team so that it doesn’t stall in any way and continues to improve.
“And for me, Jurgen seems to try to do the second one without doing the first one. He’d rather put young guys on the team who could potentially become important on the team and leave out players who can make the team better right now.”
Feilhaber added that he doesn’t think Klinsmann considers on-field performance in his selection process, noting the successful seasons of other players like New York Red Bulls midfielders Sacha Kljestan and Dax McCarty, FC Dallas defender Matt Hedges and Nottingham Forest’s Eric Lichaj that didn’t end in call-ups.
“I don’t know what that reason is,” Feilhaber said. “I don’t know if Jurgen doesn’t like these players, he doesn’t like their attitude, he doesn’t like their faces, he thinks they are ugly. I don’t know.”
Feilhaber, who was born in Rio de Janeiro, but moved to the United States when he was 6 years old, said he has no issue with Klinsmann selecting naturalized players who grew up overseas, something the coach has been criticized for previously.
The 31-year-old midfielder played for the senior national team under Bob Bradley, making his debut in a friendly against Ecuador in 2007. He’s made 41 appearances for the United States, scoring the game-winning goal in the 2007 Gold Cup final against Mexico and playing in the 2010 World Cup.
This past season, Feilhaber was one of three finalists for the MLS MVP award after scoring 10 goals and notching 15 assists in 32 games. He said he believes he’s at the top of his game, but at this point, he has accepted that he will not get another chance with the national team under Klinsmann.
“I wouldn’t say (it’s) frustrating,” Feilhaber said. “I’m almost sad, because I feel like I’m playing the best soccer of my career, but I don’t get the opportunity to play for my country.”