Matt Besler ready to anchor Sporting KC defense again after ankle surgery

Matt Besler - Sporting Kansas City - August 27, 2016

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – His offseason ankle surgery behind him, Matt Besler is ready for another year of anchoring Sporting Kansas City's defense.

“I feel good,” Besler, who had an arthroscopic procedure last month to remove bone spurs in his left ankle, told reporters on Sunday as Sporting's players gathered for physicals ahead of their training camp in Tucson, Arizona. “There's been a lot of good progress in the offseason.”

Still, Besler – whose surgery followed forward Dom Dwyer's similar procedure on his right ankle in November – had to adjust to taking time off, rather than focusing heavily on fitness work as he has done in years past.

“It was a difficult offseason in the sense that I had to be very patient in the amount of work that I was able to do,” he said. “That was hard for me. It's something that I'm not used to doing. But the trainers were great. They stayed here in Kansas City with me, and with Dom as well, and I think in the long run, I hope everything works out with the ankle.

“I'm just looking forward to getting back on the field sooner rather than later.”

When that can happen at full speed is still to be determined, manager Peter Vermes told reporters on Friday.

“I doubt that either of them would be full capacity on Monday, but we’ll sort of build them in as preseason goes,” Vermes said. “If we have to sacrifice a couple of weeks early on in the preseason, so be it. The benefit that they got from the surgery is going to be very welcome moving forward. Both guys played with a lot of pain over the course of last year.”

Besler is looking forward to seeing how the repaired ankle feels in full training, but he's not going to rush anything.

“We'll see,” he said on Sunday. “Obviously, Peter has kind of said that he might be easing me into training. A lot depends on how it reacts and how we're going to try and push things, see where I'm at – but we're also going to be smart early on.”

Vermes does expect the veteran center back to be ready when the season opens in March. Should all go according to plan, he will be the linchpin in a back line that – despite the departure of right back Chance Myers, who signed with Portland on Monday – is heavy on experience in Sporting's system.

Even offseason acquisition Igor Juliao is no stranger to the club. The young right back spent the 2014 season in Kansas City on loan from Brasilian side Fluminense, who loaned him back again this year for the duration of the season.

“I remember Igor being a young defender with a lot of potential,” Besler said. “He did a great job, because he had to fill into a position. He wasn't here very long and then Chance Myers went down with an injury, so he had to step in right away and he did an excellent job for the remainder of that season. So I'm excited to kind of see how he's progressed.”

The experience of the back line is a plus for goalkeeper Tim Melia as well.

“I'm excited,” Melia said on Sunday. “These are all guys that I'm comfortable with. They're all exceptional talents. We've all had a few years together, some even more than that, so I think defensively this year, we're going to be very solid.”