And in the first half against Ghana, it must be said, USA coach Bob Bradley got it totally, catastrophically wrong.
He as good as admitted this in taking off Ricardo Clark after only 30 minutes – an extraordinary decision – and replacing him with the player who had excelled in the two previous matches, Maurice Edu.
Feilhaber’s range of passing and ability to retain possession were crucial.
Yet, perhaps more important was how his introduction changed the shape of the USA on the field.
More than anything else, it allowed the USA players to take control of the game.
In short, Feilhaber gave the USA a platform from which it could be more flexible and inventive, making it harder for Slovenia and then Algeria and then Ghana to know where key USA players would be, while at the same time providing more defensive rigidity.
In soccer parlance, the change appears minimal. With the introduction of Feilhaber, the USA switched from a 4-4-2 to a 4-4-1-1. Gone were two central forwards, playing far up the pitch. In their place was the one remaining central forward, Jozy Altidore, paired with Clint Dempsey, who took up a roving role in “the hole” – that undefined area between forward and midfield.