The tenure of one of the most accomplished midfielders in Sporting Kansas City history came to a sudden end Wednesday.
Sporting KC traded midfielder Benny Feilhaber to expansion-side Los Angeles FC in exchange for $400,000 in allocation money. Those funds will be split evenly between general and targeted allocation money.
Feilhaber, who turns 33 later this month, totaled 29 goals and 41 assists in five MLS seasons in Kansas City, including a 2015 campaign that thrust him into the league’s most valuable player race.
The trade represents a return home. Feilhaber is from Irvine, Calif., and played at UCLA.
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“It was definitely a complete shock,” Feilhaber told The Star in a phone interview late Wednesday. “It’s obviously disappointing in the sense that you’re leaving the club you’ve been at for five years and where I’ve had the most success of my career.
“But in the same light, I don’t know if I could have gone to a better place for me. I think it’s a great place to play, a team that looks like it’s going to be something really great, and it’s in California, where both me and my wife are from.
“So it was a real mixed bag of emotions for me.”
The trade came abruptly, but preceding moves hinted at its possibility. Shortly after Sporting KC lost in the 2017 postseason, club CEO Robb Heineman tweeted that the team would invest in a No. 10, Feilhaber’s position. And earlier this offseason, Sporting KC signed attacking midfielder Yohan Croizet to a designated player contract, seemingly unseating Feilhaber from his starting job.
Feilhaber is in the final year of a two-year contract he signed 14 months ago to stay in Kansas City. He will make north of $600,000, according to sources.
The move to LAFC reunites him with coach Bob Bradley, who led the U.S. national team during Feilhaber’s extended stint with the Americans.
“Benny and I shared some good days with the U.S. national team,” Bradley said in a statement. “I am excited to work with him again. He has an attacking quality and an excellent understanding of the game.”
Feilhaber constructed the Sporting KC offensive presence in the midfield for the last five seasons after arriving in the Midwest via a trade with New England. It is his longest stay with a single club and the most decorated stint of his career.
In 2015, he compiled a career-best year, recording 10 goals and 15 assists in MLS play. He had 20 assists across all competitions, a single-season franchise record. The awards followed, and Feilhaber finished third in MLS most valuable player voting and was selected to the MLS All-Star team.
But his production slipped each of the last two seasons, as did his playing time. In 2017, Feilhaber had five goals and three assists as the Sporting KC offense sputtered.
He completed his five-year Sporting KC tenure with three trophies — the 2013 MLS Cup, 2015 U.S. Open Cup and 2017 U.S. Open Cup. Feilhaber started all three championship matches and never left the field in any of the three.
“Benny has been a really good player for our organization since 2013, and we appreciate his contribution to the club,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said in a news release. “On a personal note, I am very happy that I was able to coach Benny twice, both here and with the U-20 national team, and we wish him nothing but the best.”
The return haul further fills the allocation bank for Sporting KC. The team already garnered $1.6 million in allocation funds when it traded striker Dom Dwyer to Orlando City last summer. And the league provided teams with a substantial amount of allocation dollars this offseason.
The money will allow Sporting KC to make new acquisitions and also accommodate higher salaries under the salary cap. The club remains in the market for a striker this winter.