Sporting Kansas City midfielder Benny Feilhaber has arguably been the best playmaker in MLS this season, recording a league-high seven assists along with the Columbus Crew's Ethan Finlay. However, it wasn't enough to convince U.S. men's national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann to add Feilhaber to his provisional Gold Cup roster.
Klinsmann's 35-man squad has plenty of depth in midfield. However, the inclusion of Feilhaber would give the U.S. some creativity it desperately lacked at the World Cup.
The Guardian's Kristan Heneage asked Feilhaber about the omission. The Sporting KC midfielder was just as baffled as everyone else by Klinsmann's decision:
I don’t expect to get called in, unfortunately. It would be big surprise for me. I would take [a call-up] by the horns and prove it to Jürgen and myself that I belong with that group. I actually wish someone in the media would ask him that question to see if he has an answer. It would help me out. You think about it and you kind of wonder [why you’re not there]. It’s only human. You think what is missing for you to get that opportunity. In the last two, three years, I’ve spoken to Jürgen and he’s told me things I’ve needed to improve on and I’ve taken it very seriously.
Feilhaber also admitted that his prospects of joining the USMNT also depend on the coach's system and his form, but he meets these criteria.
Feilhaber can seamlessly fit into Klinsmann's diamond midfield. He would ease some pressure off Michael Bradley and can help break down defenses with his passing. This would also allow Bradley to roam up and down the pitch.
The likes of Mix Diskerud and Alejandro Bedoya highlight the midfielders on the roster. They're talented players, but they don't have Feilhaber's creativity or passing abilities.
Besides Bradley, the only other player on the roster who has similar vision and technique is New England Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen. However, the 2014 MVP candidate dealt with injuries at the start of the season and is now just starting to regain his old form.
Chemistry is also a big plus with the addition of Feilhaber. It's always tough to develop an understanding within a national team because the players are all members of different clubs, but that becomes less of an issue with Feilhaber in the squad.
Defender Matt Besler and winger Graham Zusi are both teammates of Feilhaber's, so slotting the 30-year-old beside Zusi could do wonders for the U.S. Both players know where each other will be, and they understand each other's strengths and weaknesses.
The same can be said with Besler. If the center back has to make an interception or clearance, he'll know where Feilhaber is, pass it to him and let the midfielder transition forward.
Diskerud is effective in a similar role, but he doesn't attempt as many long balls. The NYCFC midfielder averages 2.4 per game, per WhoScored.com, compared to Feilhaber's 3.3. Nguyen's average of 3.6 is higher than both, but his overall accuracy is lower. In order to counterattack effectively, the midfielders have to be able to execute longer passes.
Some would argue that Feilhaber shouldn't be included in the USMNT because of his age. He's 30, which means his agility will start to decline in a few years. However, the U.S. international will be 33 during the 2018 World Cup and can still be an attacking threat for Klinsmann if the USA needs a goal.
Teams call up their best players to give themselves the best chance at winning tournaments. That's why Klinsmann's decision to leave Landon Donovan at home for the 2014 World Cup was so odd, especially when the USMNT struggled to score in almost every game.
It's ludicrous for one of MLS' best playmakers to be omitted from the USMNT roster. If Klinsmann wants a more efficient attack, he must start monitoring Feilhaber.
Peter Galindo covers MLS and U.S. soccer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @GalindoPW.