Sporting's Besler cleared to play after concussion scare

Sporting's Matt Besler

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Matt Besler returned to training with Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday after worries of a concussion proved unfounded, and is expected to back in his usual starting spot for Sunday’s match at Chivas USA.

“Everybody says he’s fine,” manager Peter Vermes said at the club’s weekly news conference. “He says he’s good as well, so it’s not an issue at this time.”

The All-Star central defender collided with FC Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman in the first half of Sporting’s 2-1 victory on Sunday, but remained in the game after being checked out at halftime.

“We were a little scared after the game, even during the game,” said Aurélien Collin, Besler’s partner in central defense. “He came to me and ... I said, ‘Are you sure you can play?’ But he did a very good job, and I’m just glad he’s OK.”

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Before getting cleared, though, Besler went through some tense moments.

“Any blow to the head, you have to take seriously,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “We just monitored it. I didn’t have too many symptoms of a concussion. Obviously, I was a little shaken up, but we just monitored it 24 hours a day, and I’ve been improving each day.”

The collision happened in first-half stoppage time, as Besler, Collin and Hartman converged on Graham Zusi’s free kick into the Dallas area. Collin got the header and a goal that knotted the score at 1-1. Besler got a shot in the head that left him groggy, on his hands and knees as Collin celebrated.

“The halftime whistle blew and I went straight to Chet [North, Sporting’s trainer], took the tests,” he said. “I understood everything, all the specifics, and that was a good sign.”

It was the first concussion scare for the young defender.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “Any time something like that happens for the first time, you’re wondering: ‘Should I be feeling this way? Should I be feeling that way?’ That’s why I asked so many questions, and they’ve kept such a close eye on me the last couple of days.”

The knock, and Collin’s strained hamstring a week earlier, have raised questions about Sporting’s depth in central defense if either goes down to injury or has to sit out for yellow card accumulation or ejection. Tuesday’s Reserve League game against Houston could have allayed those worries, but the middle of the back line broke down over the last 35 minutes of a 3-0 loss.

Reserve Lawrence Olum remains a viable backup, Vermes said, and veteran defensive midfielder Júlio César could also move back if need be.

“Júlio’s position has been central defender for a number of years,” Vermes said. “He’s also played defensive midfield. The way we play, he sits well in that spot there because we usually have three against two there with him as the front sweeper. But he can easily drop back and play right next to Besler or Collin, if we need him to.”

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com. Write to him at steve@artkc365.com.