Beyond The Box Score: Benny Feilhaber provides spark in return to Children's Mercy Park

The final twist in Saturday’s 1-1 stalemate with Vancouver Whitecaps FC was gut-wrenching for Sporting Kansas City players, coaches and fans alike.

A 94th-minute equalizer from Derek Cornelius saw the Whitecaps snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat and left the hosts—who dominated for extended periods throughout the night—with a bitter taste in their mouths.

When Peter Vermes was asked to reflect on the spectacle immediately afterward, however, the veteran manager was extremely complimentary of his team.

“Our guys played really well and fought really hard,” Vermes said. “They played a man down for almost a whole 45 minutes. Unfortunately, the game was changed by the red card, but we did a great job of managing the man down. We were just a little unlucky there at the end, but I don’t have any complaints. These guys fought with everything they had.”

The red card Vermes alludes to was issued to Krisztian Nemeth, who fired Sporting ahead in the 37th minute before receiving his marching orders six minutes into the second half. That play changed the complexion of the game, but it didn’t change Vermes’ appraisal of the performance.

Asked about the influential contributions from Benny Feilhaber, who on Saturday made his highly anticipated return to Children’s Mercy Park after previously starring for Sporting from 2013-2017, the Sporting boss was concisely flattering.

“Benny’s been great,” Vermes said. “He did everything that the game needed today. He was tremendous.”

Indeed, when Sporting and Vancouver were battling 11-v-11 for the first 51 minutes of the contest, arguably no player was more influential than the savvy 34-year-old Feilhaber.

For starters, Nemeth’s goal resulted directly from a ball-winning challenge from Feilhaber, who claimed possession at midfield and in one incisive move set Johnny Russell free down the right side. Russell’s left-footed effort was saved by Vancouver goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau, but Nemeth was on hand to steer home the rebound from point-blank range.

Feilhaber also had a game-high four chances created, all of which came before Sporting were reduced to 10 men. Only three other players in the game created more than one scoring chance.

Sporting’s freshly minted No. 30 also completed 90 percent of his passes—36 of 40, to be exact—and wasn’t afraid to do the dirty work. He finished with nine duels, two interceptions and seven possessions gained—second-most on the team behind only Matt Besler, who also enjoyed a solid bounce-back performance after missing the previous four weeks with a hamstring strain.

All in all, Feilhaber’s display offered a prompt reminder to Sporting fans of what he can bring to the table: playmaking, midfield grit and a touch of class to open up the opposing defense.

The alphabetical table below lists the 11 players in Sporting Kansas City history who have had two separate stints with the club. Feilhaber joins the list alongside current teammates Nemeth and Roger Espinoza.

PLAYERS WITH TWO SEPARATE STINTS AT SPORTING KC

Player First Stint Second Stint
Roger Espinoza 2008-2012 2015 - present
Benny Feilhaber 2013-2017 2019 - present
Diego Gutierrez 1996-1997 2002-2005
Igor Juliao 2014 2017
Matt McKeon 1996-1998 2000-2002
Krisztian Nemeth 2015 2018 - present
Lawrence Olum 2011-2014 2016
Preki 1996-2000 2002-2005
Soony Saad 2011-2014 2017
Shavar Thomas 2004-2006 2010-2011
Josh Wolff 2003-2006 2008-2010

“We had a good game plan going in, had a good first half and got the goal,” Feilhaber assessed postgame. It’s silly by Krisztian (Nemeth). Then we’re down a man for 40 minutes or so. We hang on until the last couple minutes and we give something up. It’s frustrating.

“There’s nowhere to look but forward. We’ve got to keep on fighting, get some more bodies back, keep trying to get better on the field and start getting some three points.”

Feilhaber and Sporting will have three points on their minds next Sunday when Seattle Sounders FC visit for a 5 p.m. CT showdown at Children’s Mercy Park. Tickets for the nationally televised clash on FS1 are now available at SeatGeek.com.

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