KANSAS CITY, Mo. – With the next round of call-ups to the US national team looming, Matt Besler returned to training with Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday and pronounced himself ready to return to action after a three-match absence.
Besler did not discuss details of the injury to his right knee, which manager Peter Vermes has termed an MCL tweak. But in his post-training interview and an additional statement later issued by Sporting, the star center back and 2012 Defender of the Year said the injury was never serious.
“It was something I wanted to take care of and make sure it healed completely, instead of injuring it more seriously and forcing myself to be out for a longer time,” he said in the statement. “I always give everything I have to the team and try my hardest to fight through injuries, but in this situation, it was best to be smart and give it rest for a week."
Sporting went 2-1-0 over an eight-day span in Besler's absence, snapping Houston's 36-game home winning streak across all competitions with Sunday's 1-0 victory.
"It's never easy missing a game or two,” Besler said, “but the training staff has done everything to get me back as soon as possible. They've been great. Now it feels ready and back to normal. It feels strong again. I've been practicing, and I can't wait to get back on the field and compete."
Manager Peter Vermes said he was encouraged by Besler's return to training, where he played a neutral role in small-side games and did individual running and movement tests, but has not yet decided whether to return him to the roster for Sunday's away match against last-place D.C. United.
“I'm hoping that tomorrow he jumps into training a little bit more, in some of that free stuff as opposed to being a joker,” Vermes said. “Then we'll keep evaluating him day to day.”
Besler's usual partner in central defense, Aurelien Collin, is suspended for the D.C. after picking up his fifth caution – and scoring the game-winning goal – against Houston. Even if that wasn't the case, Besler said, he would want to be available against United.
“I just want to be on the field as quick as possible, no matter the circumstance” he told reporters. “That's not really in my head. I've been focused from Day One on making sure that I'm 100 percent, and that I can play.”
Besler said he has been in touch with US coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his staff since reports of his injury surfaced early last week, and has reassured Klinsmann that he will be ready when the call-ups go out at the end of this month.
“They keep tabs on everybody,” said Besler, who was one of the defensive stars of the Americans' scoreless World Cup qualifying draw in Mexico on March 26. “On Monday, after the weekend games, they meet and they go over the results and how many minutes each guy played, injuries and all that. So I've been in contact with the head trainer, just keeping him updated and in the loop on how I'm feeling, and everything's been positive.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.