If midfielder Benny Feilhaber could have handpicked his next destination after a disappointing stint with the New England Revolution, he insists Sporting Kansas City was the first choice.
Feilhaber, 27, got his wish Tuesday in a trade that sent allocation money and two Sporting KC draft choices — a first-rounder in 2014 and a second-round selection in 2015 — to New England.
“At the end of the season, I knew Kansas City was a place I would love to go — and this is before anything moved that direction,” Feilhaber said. “It’s a perfect situation for me. I couldn’t really ask for anything better.”
Feilhaber — who is set to marry his fiancée, Michele Allred, on Saturday in California — cites Sporting KC’s style of play, its track record of success and his familiarity with Peter Vermes among the reasons he’s excited for the change.
“This is basically the best wedding present I could have asked for, to know where I’m going and to be in Kansas City,” said Feilhaber, who never settled into Jay Heaps’ system in New England after arriving in April 2011.
Both Vermes and Feilhaber, who signed a four-year deal with Sporting KC, expect his oft-heralded technical ability to be a better fit with his new club’s aggressive 4-3-3 style.
“That’s the thought behind it really,” Feilhaber said. “Kansas City is a very possession-oriented team. They try to move the ball up the field very quickly, but on the ground. In that sense, I’m a guy that can fit in there, pick up the balls from the defense and spread the attack with some passes into the goal scorers.”
During the last two seasons, Feilhaber, who turns 28 next month, scored five goals with nine assists, including a team-leading seven assists in 2011, in 52 appearances (46 starts) for the Revolution, which declined to pick up his 2013 option.
Before that, Feilhaber, who was born in Brazil and moved to the United States at age 6, played six seasons in Europe — with Hamburg (Germany), Derby (England) and Aarhus (Denmark) — after a strong showing at the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championships with the U.S. men’s under-20 squad on which Vermes was an assistant coach.
“We wanted Benny, and we knew that for a long time now,” Vermes said. “We’re getting a first-class individual and an excellent soccer player. From that perspective, we’re very excited as an organization.”
Feilhaber’s first priority is returning to the form that helped him earn a spot on national teams for two CONCACAF Gold Cups (2007, 2009), the 2007 Copa America, the 2008 Olympics, the 2009 Confederations Cup and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
“I want to get back to playing the soccer I know I can play, and I don’t think I’ve done that at least for a year now,” said Feilhaber, who famously scored the game-winner in a 2-1 win against Mexico during the 2007 Gold Cup final. “My initial goal is just to get back to playing good soccer, being the player that I know I can be.”
Feilhaber can play anywhere in the midfield or at left wing, but Vermes said he’ll start out as the center midfielder.