MLS Cup 2013

After "big year" in Kansas City, Sporting KC maintaining business-like approach for MLS Cup

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – When Kansas City's biggest soccer year ever draws to a close, Graham Zusi and Matt Besler will be able to look back and say they were there for all the marquee moments.

What all that means for the Sporting Kansas City stars, though, remains to be seen until after Saturday's climactic moment: the MLS Cup between Sporting and Real Salt Lake (4 pm ET, ESPN, UniMas, TSN2/RDS in Canada).

“It's been a big year. It's been a busy year and a special year,” Besler said on Monday. “But I'd have to answer that question when it's all done. I'm just trying to take it one week at a time and one big event at a time. So once Dec. 7 happens, and hopefully we're lifting the trophy, I'll be able to take a step back and assess the year.”

By any assessment, though, 2013 has already been huge at Sporting Park for Besler and Zusi – both of whom were named on Tuesday to the MLS Best XI.

On July 31, Besler started in central defense and Zusi in the midfield for the MLS All-Stars against AS Roma. Then, on Oct. 11, in a World Cup qualifier against Jamaica, Besler went the full 90 and Zusi came off the bench to score the game-winning goal in the United States' 2-0 victory over the Reggae Boyz.

Saturday's match outstrips both in importance, Zusi told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday.

“The All-Star Game is a fun event, but it doesn't mean anything,” he said. “The qualifier was neat, very cool to play in front of the home fans with the national team. But yeah, this is your home stadium and you're playing for your city. I don't like ranking games, but yeah, it's kind of the peak of the excitement. It's probably going to be the best atmosphere. I'm looking forward to Saturday.”

It's been a banner year at Sporting Park for manager manager Peter Vermes, too. He led the MLS side in that All-Star Game – and before the qualifier against Jamaica, he was inducted into the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame in a ceremony just outside the stadium.

Vermes isn't looking back to those moments, though, as he works to get his club ready for Sporting's first MLS Cup final since the then-Wizards lost 3-2 to D.C. United in 2004.

“I don't really think about those things,” he said. “I'm a little more in the moment. For me personally, right now we have a big challenge ahead of us. We still have this game to play. So from that point of view, I think that's where my focus is, and that's where my concentration is. I try not to let anything else distract me.”

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.