SBI MLS Spotlight: After career year in 2012, Besler setting bar higher for 2013

Photo by ISIphotos.com

By FRANCO PANIZO

If 2012 provided a glimpse of things to come for Sporting Kansas City centerback Matt Besler, opposing teams better brace themselves.

Fresh off of a career season that saw him win the U.S. Open Cup and the MLS Defender of the Year award, Besler is aiming to set the bar higher for himself in 2013. The 25-year-old accomplished much of what he set out to achieve from an individual standpoint this year, but he is not one to rest on his laurels.

“I look back and reflect on the year (and) I did a lot, if not all, of the goals that I set in the beginning of the year,” Besler told SBI on Monday. “From that perspective, individually, it was a satisfying year and I’m just excited to play again. I’m going to approach this next year, I’m going to set higher goals and just go about it the same way that I did last year.”

Besler attributes much of his success in 2012 to simply being on a good Sporting KC team, one that finished the regular season in first place in the Eastern Conference before surprisingly crashing out of the playoffs to the Houston Dynamo. But that is not only contributing factor to his dream season.

“I was a year older,” said Besler, who is now a four-year pro. “A year experience in MLS is very, very valuable because the MLS is a tough league to kind of learn, but once you’re around it two, three, four years, that experience really helps you.”

The 6-foot Besler was a consistent rock this past regular season, starting in 30 of the 31 games he played in while helping Sporting KC boast the stingiest defense in the league by far. He also contributed to the club’s second U.S. Open Cup title by converting a penalty kick during a shootout against the Seattle Sounders at Livestrong Sporting Park in early August.

“It was one of the biggest highlights of my career so far,” Besler said of winning the Open Cup. “Seattle’s run, three years in a row, that’s very, very impressive. We would’ve been happy knocking off any team but knocking off Seattle and they’re the three-time defending champion made it that much sweeter for us.

“It felt great bringing the trophy to Kansas City. Our fans are great and I believe they are some of the best fans in MLS and they definitely deserve the title just as much as us.”

Besler was undoubtedly an integral part to the team’s success in 2012 and he impressed enough to earn his first international call-up from U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann in August.

The Americans were set to play Mexico in a rare friendly at the soccer cathedral that is Estadio Azteca but the camp fell during a short international fixture date, so Klinsmann chose Besler as part of a mostly reserve and inexperienced squad.

“I went into that camp just trying to take as much information as I could in,” said Besler. “It was my first call-up and it was a short camp, (but) I really just tried to learn as much as I could and the fact that we beat Mexico in Azteca, the first U.S. team to do that, that’s something that I will definitely remember for the rest of my life. I feel honored to be part of that group.”

Besler was on the game-day roster but did not step onto the field for the U.S. in their 1-0 win over their southern rivals, but he still went back to Kansas City with plenty of confidence and a hunger for more after some kind words from Klinsmann.

“He basically told me, ‘Hey, we’re bringing you in, it’s a short camp so try and get your feet wet and see what it’s all about. We’re rewarding you for the season you’ve had and you’re definitely on our radar,’” said Besler. “Afterwards, he said that he and his staff will continue to watch my progress for the rest of the year and he wished me good luck for the rest of the season.

“I felt good about it, I felt very confident and once I started practicing with the team, I felt comfortable. I think that’s the best sign as a player, is getting there and feeling like I belong. Once I got a taste of it, I wanted more of it, so that’s a good sign.”

Between the Gold Cup, World Cup qualifying and friendlies, there should be ample opportunity for Besler to receive more national team looks in 2013. He has not had any discussions with Klinsmann about what competitions he might take part in, but he is preparing for the chance, if and when it comes, all the same.

Besler also does not have to look very far to see how quickly one can go from fringe national team player to heavy contributor.

“Graham (Zusi) is a great example on that level for me,” said Besler of his Sporting KC teammate who enjoyed a rapid rise with the U.S. in 2012. “He’s a guy just like me. We got drafted in the same year, been in Kansas City for four years and definitely look to him as somebody that I can ask questions and draw experience from because he’s been through most of it.”

Before Besler can look that far ahead, however, he has an important choice to make with regards to his future. Besler is currently a free agent after completing his initial four-year deal with MLS, and he could pursue interest from abroad or re-sign with the league.

While most players elect to go to Europe under such circumstances, it is the latter scenario that is most appealing to the Overland Park, Kansas native right now.

“I’m definitely closer to a decision,” said Besler. “I know there’s been some rumors all around places and all this stuff, but I’m going to keep negotiations to myself. I will say and I’ve said it all along that my hope is to stay in Kansas City. I love the fans and the city. That’s my goal right now.”

Besler should make a decision soon and regardless of which direction he goes in, he is looking back on his first four years with Sporting KC with nothing but fond memories.

After all, it is where he honed his game en route to becoming an MLS Defender of the Year.

“I love it, I love the experiences I’ve had,” said Besler. “Kansas City is the only place that I’ve played professionally, so I owe a lot to that city and to the club.

“It’s crazy, I got here and we were the Wizards and now we’re Sporting KC and playing in front of 18,000, sold-out fans every single game. A lot has changed for the better so it’s been an exciting thing to be a part of.”

This entry was posted in Americans Abroad, Featured, MLS- Sporting Kansas City. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to SBI MLS Spotlight: After career year in 2012, Besler setting bar higher for 2013

  1. Bobb says:

    “Bar higher” = Europe, Mr Besler.

  2. Ross says:

    At 25, he needs to go now if he is going to.

    • PD says:

      He’s a center back, so he has more time than you think provided he stays healthy.
      Better to spend another year or two in MLS and then jump, rather than waste 2 years at the wrong club.

  3. Mack says:

    i think if you were to ask jurgen. he’d argue that starting 30 games for the best defense in MLS a year is better than signing with a relegation likely team in the EPL then being relegated youself to the bench. i also think playing in Vermes high pressure 4-3-3 i s the closest thing in the MLS to what jurgen is trying to turn the usmnt in it. also vermes is becoming a quite the developer of young talent with guys like zusi, besler, bunbury, and sapong all possibly being key developing players in the next few years with the usmnt. and it is probably only a matter of time until myers and sinovic recieve a B or C squad call up as well.

    • Bobb says:

      Actually he has said about a billion times that 1) players need to challenge themselves in better leagues and better teams (eg Dempsey’s move from Fulham) and 2) that players need to get out of their comfort zones.

      So
      1) obviously even teams battling relegation in the Premier League are better than KC. And I say that as a big MLS fan.
      2) it doesn’t get more “comfort zone” than the team you have played with your whole pro career, that drafted you, from your hometown area, especially when you have already won defender of the year in the league. What more can Besler do here, win Defender of the Year again? Be a part of the best defense in the league? Be on a team that’s ranked #1 in its division? Defenders don’t win MVP so he’s done everything but win a Supporters Shield or MLS Cup.

      • DJ says:

        “1) obviously even teams battling relegation in the Premier League are better than KC. And I say that as a big MLS fan.”

        Maybe not as familiar with EPL? A full reserve SKC drew Stoke’s starters last year (albeit on a hilarious long shot from a defender).

        If you think QPR or Aston Villa could easily handle top MLS teams, you might wanna upgrade your cable/satellite to at least get Fox Soccer.

        Now, if you actually meant top sides like Manchester City or Marseille, then yeah, they tend to dominate MLS clubs. (But speaking of SKC, they downed ManUnited a couple of years ago.)

        • DanO says:

          Summer friendlies… Really? Those are not a great measuring stick.

          Look at Ream and Cameron of examples. Ream was defender of the year candidate for RBNY and now can barely get on the field for a Championship caliber team. Cameron was a star centerback in Houston and is playing wide for Stoke because of the centerback depth ahead of him. Granted Cameron is playing well, but clearly the competition within the squad and league is better. Facts are facts. Is MLS closing the gap? Yes, but not on par yet.

      • mack says:

        and he also got better every year for four years in kc and i dont think you can say for sure that skc will stunt further growth or qpr will develop him faster or better. dempsey helped himself out a ton but was also on the usmnt radar before besler. besler is an emerging player not one that seems like the mls is hurting his technical development like in the case of dempsey

  4. Mack says:

    i think if you were to ask jurgen. he’d argue that starting 30 games for the best defense in MLS a year is better than signing with a relegation likely team in the EPL then being relegated youself to the bench. i also think playing in Vermes high pressure 4-3-3 i s the closest thing in the MLS to what jurgen is trying to turn the usmnt in to. also vermes is becoming a quite the developer of young talent with guys like zusi, besler, bunbury, and sapong all possibly being key developing players in the next few years with the usmnt. and it is probably only a matter of time until myers and sinovic recieve a B or C squad call up as well.

  5. Lost in Space says:

    Besler will have a real chance to break into the Senior National team during the January Camp. He and Gonzalez will likely be the 2 New players from this camp that will have the greatest chance to advance to the Feb. Camp for the WCQ’ers.
    Depending on who else JK calls in (Bedoya, Goodson, Mix, Zusi, Gatt, etc…) this camp could be a chance for some of the fring players to make a real case for themselves heading into 2013. Really kind of looking forward to this years Camp Cup Cake.

  6. Nick4235 says:

    I think it’s a tough decision but while I think mls is getting better, if I were a player, I’d rather say I gave Europe a shot and didn’t make it than say I never took a chance and made the jump. That’s just me and I’d hav no issue if he were to resign. I hope whatever he does it works out.

  7. matt says:

    If I were a young but up and coming fringe national team player I would want as many games as possible to make the squad. Nobody is going to make the squad if they are not playing.

  8. bizzy says:

    If SKC wants to keep him they better pay the “U.S. Open Cup and the MLS Defender of the Year winner” more than $91,751.00 – $103,000. If we want this league to develop we need to start paying our talented homegrown players. We need to keep this kind of talent in MLS and develop the league, instead of having them run off to Mexico, England (league 1, league 2), Demark, Sweden or Norway for a bigger pay day. The better the players, the better the game, the better the exposure and the more kids at an early age start knowing and idolizing these players, which will motivate them to become the next wave of talent in the US Soccer pool (instead of all the naturally gifted athletes going to play football and basketball because that’s where the money is).

  9. Sly says:

    Id say Europe but I am biased they play more games and in a more varied environment, Im more a USMNT than an MLS fan.

    I wouldnt necessarrily say England though, Id try Germany Spain Italy before England. the Work Permit issues there are difficult at best.

  10. JJ says:

    love to see him move to Holland

  11. 5280 says:

    I hope he stays in Kansas City. He’s a fun player to watch and exactly the type of player MLS needs to retain and pay well in order for the league to gain legitimacy in the world soccer scene. Sure, I hope he reaches a certain point where he can get on with a good EPL team, but MLS needs to pay players like Besler to stick around for at least a few years.

  12. Gary Page says:

    My opinion, for what it’s worth as a long time observer of the USMNT, is that he should go to Europe as long as i9t is a decent team in a decent league. A top team in a Nordic country would be okay, but Holland would be even better. Depends on what he is offered and where.