The United States Should Start Benny Feilhaber against Panama in World Cup Qualifying

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Bruce Arena selected his United States National Team roster for the October World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Trinidad and Tobago. The roster had its share of bad picks, but Arena did select Benny Feilhaber, a needed playmaker.

When the United States lines up against Panama, Arena will need to start Feilhaber as the team’s playmaker. In recent years, Feilhaber has become a two-way player who provides plenty of running and ball-winning. This should help Michael Bradley with defensive coverage in the midfield.

World Soccer Source previously wrote about the importance of calling up Feilhaber and Lee Nguyen, but only Feilhaber was selected. That’s better than nothing. In addition to calling up Feilhaber, Arena needs to start him. Starting him instantly improves the team’s possession and passing, and it improves the quality and quantity of final balls for attackers.

Starting Benny Feilhaber Makes Christian Pulisic More Effective

With Feilhaber as the playmaker, Christian Pulisic is a bigger scoring threat. His runs will more likely be rewarded with a quality pass, and he has another technical player to combine with. Clint Dempsey, Bobby Wood, and Pulisic are more than enough attacking firepower for the United States against Panama and Trinidad and Tobago. Feilhaber has all the tools and experience to orchestrate the attack with those players.

Despite being a playmaker himself, Pulisic has more 1v1 ability than Feilhaber, and he frequently gets into the penalty box. Playing Feilhaber allows Pulisic to make more runs into the penalty box, which will be rewarded with a final ball. The more technical players that the United States starts, the better it is for Pulisic’s skill-set. Without skilled players with quick feet and quick minds, he can’t play the way that he likes to play. Feilhaber is one of these players.

Feilhaber is a different type of American midfielder

In the last two games, the U.S. passed poorly, and there was no link between the midfield and the attack. Starting Feilhaber corrects these problems. At 32 years old, Feilhaber isn’t nearly old enough to be written off or declared over the hill. With the World Cup next summer, the attacking midfielder should become a fixture of the squad if the U.S. wants to qualify and perform well in the actual tournament.

Time and time again, he has shown how he plays the type of defense-splitting passes that other Americans don’t play. For a team with more passing and build up play, a true playmaker who can create goals is a must. There’s a noticeable difference in the quality of the U.S.’s play when Feilhaber is on the field, and his skill-set is needed again in a crucial World Cup qualifier.

Feilhaber has several good years of high quality football left, and perhaps this is another opportunity for the playmaker’s talents not to go to waste at the international level. Playing him certainly cuts down on Pulisic having to play 1v1 or dribble through crowds as the only method of advancing the ball. Pulisic’s 1v1 abilities are a great boost to the United States, but having a playmaker playing with him would be even better.


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