KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Matt Besler didn’t just win Major League Soccer’s text vote for a spot on the 2011 MLS All-Star team. He absolutely obliterated the competition.
More accurately, Sporting Kansas City’s tech-savvy supporters, Besler’s extended network of friends and family and some savvy marketing did everything possible to stuff the proverbial ballot box for the 24-year-old center back, rewarding him for a breakout season and sending him to New York.
“I was joking around and said I either have a ton of fans or I have a lot of crazy fans that like to text,” Besler said. “I think it’s a little of both.”
Besler earned an almost ridiculous 30 percent of the total vote submitted between June 8 and July 5, receiving nearly three times as many votes as the next closest player, and will be one of 32 members of the MLS All Star team that takes on Manchester United at Red Bull Arena on July 27.
And according to Sporting manager Peter Vermes, the man who drafted Besler out of Notre Dame and has guided his professional development up to this point, the third-year pro is more than deserving of the honor. He has started 16 of Kansas City’s 18 league matches this season, and the club’s current 12-game unbeaten streak corresponded with Besler’s return to the starting lineup and partnership with Aurélien Collin.
“First off, I’m very happy for him,” Vermes said. “He should be very proud. Over the last couple years, he’s grown and evolved as a player. More importantly, he’s taken the craft of being a player very seriously. He works very hard in the offseason and constantly improves during the course of the season.”
Although there is no guarantee that he will play against Man. United — only 18 players will actually be on manager Hans Backe’s game-day roster — Besler said he was flattered to be recognized among the league’s best.
He put in countless hours during the offseason to improve his upper body strength and fitness, adding a bite to his game that wasn’t always there at times during previous seasons. And despite having the immediate reward of representing the league, Besler said he is just focused on continuing to improve and taking more of a leadership position within the squad in Kansas City in the hopes of one day drawing the attention of US national team coach Bob Bradley.
“I try and stay as humble as possible,” Besler said, “but, selfishly, I hope that this kind of puts my name on the map nationally. I know Kansas City sometimes gets overlooked, but hopefully I can make a name for myself and get on the national team radar. That has always been one of my goals and something I’m going to work towards over the next year or two.”
But, first things first, Besler knows he has to continue playing to and above the standard he’s set for himself. He’s cemented himself in the center of Kansas City’s defense and shows new wrinkles to his game every single week, which has earned the full support and belief of his manager.
“I expect a lot from the guy,” Vermes said. “I think he’s always had a lot of potential, and I still think he has a lot more. … The more he plays, I just know the better he’s going to become.”