Benny Feilhaber signed a contract with MLS this past weekend after spending the last few seasons in Denmark with AGF Aarhus. The USA international rose through the Hamburg youth system and also had a fairly disappointing stint in England at Derby County, and now he will be placed on a team via allocation order. The New England Revolution are currently third in that sequence.
With Chivas USA and the Philadelphia Union ahead of them, it does seem as though the Revs don't have much of a shot of landing the gifted midfielder. However, Peter Nowak has already been quoted as saying that the Union won't make a move for Feilhaber, so if Chivas pass then he would fall to New England.
Furthermore, Chivas head coach Robin Fraser is known as a defensive specialist and is most concerned with shoring up his back line and enforcing his system upon the Goats right now. As many of you may already know, Feilhaber isn't exactly known for his defensive prowess, and is prone to lapses in concentration in defending situations. Fraser has mentioned that Benny is a great player and he'd love to have him, but also tempered that enthusiasm by admitting that there are salary considerations and such, so they could theoretically pass as well. The general consensus seems to be that if such a thing occurs, the team would be foolish not to take him.
I'm inclined to agree. However, a lot more is going to have to go into that decision than just a snap judgment based on how good of a player he is.
Benny is reportedly signed to a contract worth $335,000 per year. For those of you keeping up on MLS salary guidelines (as best as you can, anyway), you'll recognize that number as the minimum salary threshold for a Designated Player. You'll also recognize that such a figure constitutes 12% - 13% of the salary cap; a steep price to be sure, and one that requires a lot of careful thought and maneuvering on the roster front.
If the Revs are looking to sign a DP this summer, bringing in Feilhaber would probably eat up whatever cap space the team has set aside to give them the flexibility to make that move. I think Benny will be a great talent and a phenomenal asset here in MLS, but I don't know if I'm prepared to give up the opportunity to sign a premier player to a DP contract for him.
Obviously, some players could be released to make room for him, but that is another dangerous road to tread. Sunday's match in Houston illustrated how quickly the Revolution's "depth" can be tested when Darrius Barnes was forced to fill in at right back for the injured Didier Domi. This just weeks after Seth Sinovic, a competent natural left-back, was waived.
There is, of course, the option of engineering a trade. Going that route assumes that Chivas (or Philly) snatch up Feilhaber but are looking to deal him for other parts. Such a scenario could be more agreeable than a straight add-and-drop situation because it allows the Revolution to involve pieces such as draft picks and allocation money instead of having to deal strictly in players. It still doesn't address the issue of Benny's large salary, but a trade involving picks or allocation and one player to help free up the space wouldn't look so bad to me.
All of this hinges on Chivas USA's willingness to pass or deal, and the Revolution FO's willingness to force a deal through on a short time-frame. Also, many of us (myself included) are operating under the assumption that the Revs would want him if they could get him.
And why wouldn't they? Feilhaber is a proven attacking talent with big-game experience who has cut it before at the international level and in leagues (or at least one league) abroad. He may be coming from a Danish second-division club but he was with them and playing well when they were a first-division club not so long ago. Imagine a Revolution midfield three with Benny Feilhaber backed by Ousmane Dabo and Shalrie Joseph...Rajko Lekic will certainly not find himself starved for service with that battery behind him.
At the time of this writing, Chivas USA has about an hour and a half to make a decision. It's looking more and more like they're prepared to pass but are shopping around for a deal. So I will ask the question: Should the Revs make a move for Benny Feilhaber?
Vote in the poll and leave your comments below!