By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (March 21, 2016) US Soccer Players – Sporting Kansas City captain Matt Besler is one of the best defenders in MLS. A major reason for the success Sporting KC has achieved over the past few seasons, Besler stands out among those who play the same position. Besler completed 3,144 passes going into this season, more than any defender in the league since 2013. He won MLS Defender of the Year in 2012. In 2015, Besler led Sporting KC with 38 starts last season across all competitions.
Besler’s success has translated into call-ups to the National Team. He has 32 caps for the USMNT and started all four games at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Under coach Jurgen Klinsmann, Besler became a regular at left-center back after earning his first cap for the United States in January 2013 versus Canada. After the World Cup, Besler got several offers from European clubs – including Premiership clubs Fulham and Sunderland – but decided to stay in Kansas City.
The 29-year-old Besler continues to be one of Klinsmann’s regulars in the starting lineup. He could be in for a very busy year with World Cup Qualifying returning this week and the Copa America Centenario taking place in the summer. Indeed, he has emerged as a regular on the team alongside fellow MLS stars Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey.
A fan favorite, Besler is a native of Kansas City and grew up rooting for the Wizards. Besler was drafted by the Kansas City Wizards 8th overall in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft after graduating from Notre Dame, where he served as team captain in his last two years. He made his MLS debut in 2009 and helped Sporting Kansas City win MLS Cup in 2013.
We caught up with Besler ahead of the USA’s pair of World Cup Qualifiers against Guatemala, where he talked about Kansas City’s chances of winning MLS Cup, how he manages to play in so many high-pressure matches, and why this could be a key year for the National Team.
How do you like Sporting KC’s prospects of winning MLS Cup this season?
Of course I like our chances to win MLS Cup this season. But I’m sure all 19 other teams will say the same thing at this point in the season. It’s way too early to be talking about MLS Cup. Right now, you have to concentrate on getting better and take it one game at a time.
What did you do this past offseason to make sure you were ready as a team to compete in 2016?
The same thing I’ve done the past five off seasons. Followed my offseason fitness program to try and get bigger, stronger, faster. Also, I attended January camp with the National Team. This helps lay the foundation for hopefully a successful season.
Which strikers do you most fear playing against in MLS and why?
I don’t fear playing against any strikers. I have respect for every opponent and realize some opponents present a big challenge. But if you go into a game fearing someone, you don’t give yourself much of a chance.
This is also a busy year for the National Team. How have you been able to juggle club and country duties?
I don’t really think about juggling club and country. I just try and play my best and do anything I can to help the team I’m with win.
How exciting is it that the Copa America will be played in the United States this summer?
It’s very exciting the US gets to host Copa America. I hope I can be a part of it.
The United States is in a tough group. Do you like your chances of advancing and will be playing at home help?
I haven’t given much thought to our group at Copa America because we have two World Cup qualifiers coming up. Playing in America will definitely help because we have amazing fans and getting to play in front of them definitely gives us an advantage.
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