A few weeks ago, we reported that Benny Feilhaber was on the auction block at Derby shortly before he was named to the US Olympic squad. Now, it seems he may still have a place in the club's side, but just barely. After his meteoric rise from Hamburg and the US national team to last summer's transfer to Derby, Feilhaber seemed to be the next big thing. But he fell on black days, riding the bench after Paul Jewell took the reins at Pride Park. But, he kept his head down, continued training, and waited for a break which never came.
Last week, the new numbers were passed out at Derby and Feilhaber went from being #22 to being #31, the last number passed out by the club. Its usually a good sign when a coach assigns a number (and a bad one when they don't), but being #31 is a clear sign that the American midfielder in the man on the bubble. There is, of course, always a chance he be sold before the August 31st transfer deadline.
As the English Championship season started today, Derby lost 1-0 to Championship newcomer Doncaster Rovers sans Feilhaber and Australian Ruben Zadkovich, also in Beijing to compete in the Olympics. That makes it 25 straight losses for Jewell, who has yet to win a game at Derby. Since he did not get a result today after starting seven of his new signings, the door may be creaking open for Feilhaber.
The question remains whether Feilhaber can prove himself now by starting and making a good showing at the Olympics. But that is already proving to be a difficult task. With so many quality players competing for a starting spot, it is easy to be outshined by the others - coach Piotr Novak only used Feilhaber as a substitute in the 1-0 win over Japan.
If Feilhaber can break out of his rusty cage and prove his worth, he needs to do it quickly. If Team USA has a chance to steal a point from a powerful Netherlands squad tomorrow, a resurgent Benny Feilhaber may be just what they need. Given Derby's form, he may be just what they need as well.