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Soccer

LAFC brings Feilhaber home to anchor its midfield

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United States midfielders Benny Feilhaber, left, and Michael Bradley go through a drill during a soccer training session in Sanford, Fla., on Oct. 2.
(John Raoux / Associated Press)

Benny Feilhaber always figured he would finish his professional soccer career playing for Sporting Kansas City. But just for kicks, each offseason he drew up a list of teams he would accept a trade to.

The names on the list didn’t matter because in MLS, players can’t refuse a trade. But when the call he never expected came late Wednesday afternoon, a call telling him the team he had spent the last five years with had just sold him to the Los Angeles Football Club, Feilhaber checked the list anyway.

“There were only three teams,” he said. “And LAFC was one of them.”

So color Feilhaber more happy than disappointed Sporting Kansas City sold him to the expansion franchise for $400,000 in allocation money, reuniting him with Bob Bradley, his coach with the U.S. national team, while filling LAFC’s need for an experienced and creative midfielder.

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“I’m very motivated right now. And that came two hours ago once I found out I got traded,” Feilhaber said. “Playing for a new team is always going to excite you because you want to do well for the team that went out and got you and traded for you and believed in you.

“But if somebody’s picking you up, somebody had to let you go. So that kind of fuels you.”

The trade also marks a homecoming for Feilhaber, who went to high school in Irvine and played college soccer at UCLA before beginning a professional career that took him to Germany, England and Denmark as well as the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

“It’s bittersweet to leave where you’ve been for five years,” said Feilhaber, who owns a home in Southern California. “But it’s very exciting to be able to come to an organization like LAFC.”

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The trade for Brazilian-born Feilhaber, who turns 33 in two weeks, comes a day after LAFC announced the signing of free-agent defender Jordan Harvey, who spent the last seven seasons with the Vancouver Whitecaps. Terms of neither contract were released but Feilhaber, who has a year left on his deal, and Harvey, former teammates at UCLA, combined to earn $780,000 last year, according to figures provided by the MLS players union.

They join a growing LAFC roster that includes Mexican national team star Carlos Vela, Uruguayan teenager Diego Rossi and Costa Rican international Marco Urena at forward and MLS veterans Walker Zimmerman, Laurent Ciman and Egyptian international Omar Gaber on the back line. Feilhaber and Calum Mallace, formerly of the Montreal Impact, are the only midfielders on the 11-man team.

“Not everything goes step-by-step,” Bradley said. “You’re working on a lot of things at the same time. So it’s not like we focused on other areas first and now finally we have a midfielder. What we’ve done all along is tried to have a picture of the whole thing, tried to get the right kind of players and we’re still working.”

The Feilhaber deal was announced just hours after Orlando City obtained national team midfielder Sacha Kljestan from the New York Red Bulls. LAFC had long been rumored to have an interest in trading for Kljestan, who cost Orlando City two young players in forward Carlos Rivas and defender Tommy Redding.

“Benny’s a good player,” Bradley said. “As we’ve been working to build our team we’ve clearly put an emphasis on guys that have football quality and football brains. Benny fits all that.”

“We want to be a team that, football-wise, steps on the field and has a real idea of how to play,” Bradley continued. “So you’ve got to have the right kind of guys and Benny fits in perfectly.”

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter @kbaxter11

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