Circle the date: Sporting KC's Matt Besler set to pull on USMNT colors in front of hometown fans
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Matt Besler typically doesn't like to look ahead on the schedule – for club or for country.
But ever since U.S. Soccer booked Friday's World Cup qualifier against Jamaica at Sporting Park, Sporting Kansas City's All-Star center back has been looking forward to donning the national team's colors in front of his hometown fans.
“It's something that's going to be special,” Besler told MLSsoccer.com late last week, while awaiting the official call-up that came on Sunday. “You hate looking forward to games before they happen, but this is a game that I've had on my mind for a very long time, and once it came out I was just looking forward to hopefully getting a chance to play.”
The venue for Friday's match at Sporting Park was announced on March 21, five days before Besler's first qualifying start – a scoreless draw against Mexico at Azteca Stadium.
“Everything was going through my mind when that came out,” said Besler, who joins Sporting midfielder Graham Zusi on the US roster. “I was basically just thinking, 'How cool would it be to get that chance to play in a meaningful game?' And here we are now.”
Besler has made five starts in Hexagonal play despite missing last month's 2-0 win over El Tri in Columbus on a yellow-card suspension, and also helped the US to a Gold Cup title this summer after joining the team for the knockout stage.
His latest call-up came a day after Besler gave Sporting's fans a scare, when he knocked heads with Columbus' Chad Barson just before the hour mark in Saturday night's 1-0 away victory against the Crew. The collision opened a bloody gash in Besler's head that would later require 10 stitches – but that was after he changed to a backup kit, donned headgear and finished the match.
That perseverance earned praise from manager Peter Vermes what he called “big-time” toughness.
Zusi, who missed three league matches in August with a quad strain, also bounced back from an injury scare after recording the game-winning assist against the Crew. He appeared to pull up lame after whiffing on a second-half shot, but quickly shook it off and went on to complete a dominating full-90 performance.
He has already played for the US at Sporting Park, starting in a 3-1 victory over Guatemala in an early-stage qualifying match last October.
"I take an immense amount of pride in having the honor of representing my club and my country," Zusi said in a statement issued by the club on Sunday. "This next match will be that much more meaningful to do so in front of the fans at Sporting Park. It's a special occasion for me personally and an important match for the team."
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.