Benny Feilhaber joins Sporting technical staff: "This has been a goal of mine since I retired"

Sporting Kansas City legend Benny Feilhaber has sealed a return to his longtime club. This time around, however, the 36-year-old will have far different responsibilities than scoring and creating goals from the attacking midfield position.

Feilhaber was unveiled as a new member of Sporting’s technical staff on Tuesday. In conjunction with the announcement, the MLS Cup champion and World Cup veteran spoke with media about his exciting transition. Feilhaber’s remarks are below.


On the opportunity to join Sporting’s technical staff…   

This was a no-brainer. I’m very excited that Peter offered it to me. When I retired, I knew that I wanted to be back with this club in some kind of role. With the pandemic, things had to be kept on hold for a little bit. I’ve been talking with Peter for close to 12 months now and thankfully this has become an opportunity for me. I doubt that many ex-players say this, but I almost feel like the 15-year career that I had prepared me for this more than anything else. I’m very excited about it, and every day that I come into (Compass Minerals National Performance Center) and speak to the technical staff, I just get more excited for the work that is ahead. It’s almost as if this is more what I was built to do than actually play soccer myself.

On what this means for the future of “BSI: The Podcast,” a popular podcast Feilhaber hosts alongside Ike Opara and Sal Zizzo…

I don’t know what this means for the podcast yet. It’ll probably be a little bit of a hiatus, at least from my perspective.

On the events that led to him joining the Sporting KC technical staff…

This has been a goal of mine since I retired. When this job was offered to me, it wasn’t a difficult choice to take it. In terms of when I started talking to Peter, my first conversation with him about it was before I retired at the end of 2019. Peter said, “Look, we’re not taking you back as a player in 2020, but if and when you retire, let me know because I think you’d be an asset for this team.”

I told him, “I want to stay in soccer when I do retire, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to retire.” So we kept that line open, and when I finally decided to retire in March, we started having more serious conversations. The pandemic made it a (longer process), but that line opened and it wasn’t very difficult for me to make a decision. Peter and I have had a history together for 15 years. I was hoping that something would become available, and obviously Peter was able to offer me something over the last two to three weeks. It was a very easy decision for me to come onboard. I’ve always said (Kansas City) is my second home, but clearly it’s becoming my first home at this point.

On the roles and responsibilities of his new job…

I’m going to be part of the coaching staff every day at training—helping plan the training sessions every week and helping plan against the team we’re playing week to week. In that sense, I’m going to be very active with the first team. In terms of scouting, that’s something that the entire coaching staff takes a part in. I’m definitely going to have to learn that aspect of it.

Peter told me that it’s good to learn and understand what every facet of the club does, whether that’s the technical staff, medical staff, equipment—all of this is something that I’m going to try to learn from so that I have a really good sense of how the club and organization works. I’ll be partaking in a lot of different responsibilities with the first team while also sharing some of that stuff with the second team and the academy.

On the biggest influences in his soccer career…

I said this when I retired: the two coaches who had the biggest impact in my career were Peter and Bob Bradley, two guys who are held with really high esteem in U.S. Soccer. I’ve learned a lot from them that I’m going to try and utilize in my post-playing career. Those two have gotten the best out of me, taught me things on and off the field, and they do it in different ways. That’s the beauty of it, right? There are so many different ways to do it and be productive. I will take what I’ve learned from them and use it within my personality to try and get the best out of the players I work with.

On his coaching style…

Peter is very good at letting everyone know how the culture is built here and to uphold that culture. It’s very important for what this club is all about. From my perspective, I’m going to try and be myself. I’m not going to try and be somebody else. If you go from a player to a coach, you don’t want people thinking, “Wow, this guy changed overnight for some reason. He’s pretending to be somebody that he’s not.” I’ll always be the same kind of person, but I realize that my roles and responsibilities are different. I think I can bring something fresh in terms of the relationship between the coaching staff and the players. We’re not training yet, but I can’t wait to get out on the field and start developing that coach-player relationship with the players who are here.

On former players such as Feilhaber and Sporting KC II head coach Paulo Nagamura wanting to remain at the club after retiring as players…

It says that the culture is built in a real way. At a lot of places, changes are occurring all the time—whether that’s players who come and go or coaches who come and go. Peter is the longest-tenured coach in MLS for a reason, but you can go through the staff. Kerry Zavagnin and Zoran Savic have been here forever, so you see something being build that is real. It’s not fake; we aren’t saying something and doing something else. Players notice that. Guys want to be a part of it and want to be engrained in it. Paulo Nagamura is the perfect example of what it’s like to be a team player. He’s one of the guys who I consider to be one my best teammates of all time. You see that in him and he’s stuck around. I definitely feel that the culture here is part of my personality. It makes perfect sense to me and to people around me that I would want to be here after my playing career is over. Hopefully I can uphold that and contribute even more positively to that culture.

On the close relationships he has with current Sporting players…

I’ve had really good relationships with probably half of the players on this team—guys that I’ve played with who are similar in age to me and have gone through things with me on the playing field. The other half might be younger guys that I haven’t gotten a chance to play with and don’t know so well. Getting to know them will be a different process in itself. I want to maintain the good relationships that I have with a lot of those players while still being a good professional. That’s something that I’ll have to learn, but I don’t think that will be a problem because the relationships that I’ve built with those guys are so solid and so strong that I wouldn’t anticipate any difficulties there. It is something that I’m going to have to learn to make sure that, above all else, I’m doing my job the right way.

On how he plans to earn the respect of players…

You need to put the team first, which has always been the mentality and the culture here. The players understand that. I remember the first day I stepped through the doors here as a player in 2013, Peter had a conversation with me that I assume he has with every new player. He said that everyone at this club is here to give us the best chance of getting three points on the weekend. The team is always first, and it may be a cliché at some places, but I think it really rings true here. The players know that whether I was here as a player or a technical staff member, that’s what I’m here to do. If I’m doing my job properly, I’ll earn the respect of those guys.

On his assistant coaching experience at UCLA, his alma mater, in the fall of 2020…

It was a really good experience for me to be with UCLA. There are lots of differences between the college soccer world and the professional environment, but getting my feet wet, being on the opposite side of the lines and being able to share my experiences and knowledge with the players at UCLA was fantastic. Being a part of that process gave me a lot of experience, albeit in a short amount of time at around six months. So now I come a little more prepared into this job. I was very excited to join them and I thank Ryan Jorden, Matt Taylor and all of the players at UCLA for letting me grow in that role.

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