Posted December 05, 2013

Once World Cup talents, Feilhaber, Findley share common bond on road to MLS Cup

Brian Straus, MLS, MLS Cup, MLS Playoffs, Real Salt Lake, Sporting Kansas City, U.S. men's national team, U.S. Soccer
Benny Feilhaber

Benny Feilhaber has played an integral role in helping Sporting Kansas City to the MLS Cup final. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)

Benny Feilhaber and Robbie Findley will face off in Saturday’s MLS Cup final wearing different colors. Yet they’ll share a common bond as they vie for a trophy they surely never imagined competing for three years ago, when they were taking on the world together.

Careers take unexpected turns, and nothing is guaranteed in the life of a pro athlete. Neither Findley nor Feilhaber was a World Cup certainty when coach Bob Bradley’s roster started to take shape in 2009, but both were on the plane to Johannesburg the following summer, and both made an impact. Findley, a striker fresh off his run to the ’09 MLS title with Real Salt Lake, started three of the Americans’ four games. Feilhaber was Bradley’s South Africa super-sub. The Americans tallied four goals and yielded one with the Brazil-born, U.S-raised playmaker on the pitch but were outscored by the same margin with Feilhaber on the bench.

Both assumed their World Cup experience would catapult them to soccer’s next level.

“It’s not easy to make a World Cup squad. We got selected for a reason,” Findley said.

He opted not to re-sign with RSL at the end of 2010 and went to try his luck in England, where he joined second-tier Nottingham Forest. Feilhaber, relegated to the Danish second division with AGF Aarhus, awaited a transfer to one of Europe’s bigger leagues.

“Soccer is your career. In that sense, after you put up a good performance in the World Cup, you hope you can go to a club where you get a solid amount of money to make for your family. The other aspect is the ambition to play at the highest level possible,” Feilhaber said. “It didn’t work out the way I would’ve hoped for.”

It’s funny how things do work out. Feilhaber, 28, will help direct Sporting Kansas City’s attack in Saturday’s MLS showpiece. Findley, also 28, will lead the line for visiting RSL 11 months after returning from England. Both have experienced ups and downs in 2013, but both have been excellent in the playoffs. Findley, who scored three times in four postseason matches in ’09, recaptured his November form this year and had two goals and an assist as RSL hammered the Portland Timbers in the Western Conference finals.


Other than the starts he was gifted, what kind of impact did Findley make at the World Cup? The only reason he was there was because Bob Bradley felt the need for speed after Charlie Davies got himself in that car crash. Findley was awful quite frankly. Feilhaber was better, but both showed a lack of composure in near goal in the games they played.