NATAL, Brazil – Faced with a decision to risk a rapidly tightening hamstring or end his World Cup debut after just 45 minutes, Matt Besler played it safe.
With Jozy Altidore already in the locker room with a strained left hamstring, a 21st-minute injury that forced the US national team forward to exit the field on a gurney, Besler pulled up lame just a few minutes before halftime against Ghana on Monday, clutching his right hamstring.
The center back was clearly laboring for the rest of the half, and despite the training staff’s best efforts in the locker room at the break, he was replaced by John Brooks to start the second half, the substitute eventually scoring the game-winning goal in the 86th minute.
“It was a really tough decision at halftime,” Besler told reporters postgame. “Basically what happened was with five minutes left in the first half I made a play. When I slid, I felt my right hamstring ball up.
"For the rest of the half, I could feel it pinching. Came in a halftime, did some work on it, tried to loosen it up and we made the decision that I wasn’t going to be able to go for the second half.”
Instead, Besler stayed in the locker room receiving treatment until the 65th minute, when he emerged to witness the Black Stars' equalizer in the 82nd followed shortly by Brooks’ towering header five minutes later.
He said he’ll undergo tests on Tuesday in São Paulo to determine the extent of the injury, but head coach Jurgen Klinsmann seemed confident the issue wouldn’t be a lingering problem for his first-choice center back.
“With Matt, it’s no problem,” he said in the postgame press conference. “We made the right decision. And he didn’t get any injuries, so he’s all fine.”
Besler didn’t seem so sure when he spoke to the media after the match.
“Unfortunately, I can’t put a timeframe on it,” he said. “We’re going find out more tomorrow, find out more information. For me, I’m not that familiar with muscle injuries. I really can’t give you much on how it feels on that front.”
Similarly, Besler couldn’t explain what caused the sudden tightness, though he admitted it did seem strange that both he and Altidore suffered comparable injuries just minutes apart.
“It’s weird, because you see Jozy have the same thing 15 minutes before,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s coincidence or not, but I didn’t feel anything going into the game.”