KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The next time he sees yellow in a US national team uniform, Matt Besler will have to sit out a match.
But the Sporting Kansas City defender doesn't expect to be held out of the United States' next World Cup qualifier to ensure he plays in the one after that – and he doesn't expect any of the other seven Americans carrying a caution to be protectively benched, either.
“I doubt that would be a strategy that the coach would use,” said Besler, one of two Sporting players – along with midfielder Graham Zusi – called into Jurgen Klinsmann's camp ahead of qualifiers at Costa Rica on Sept. 6 and against Mexico on Sept. 10 in Columbus, Ohio. “But who knows? I haven't heard anything.”
Besler made his qualifying debut against El Tri in a scoreless draw on March 26 at Estadio Azteca – where he picked up a yellow card early on – and has started five Hexagonal matches since then without being cautioned again.
“With yellow cards, it's bound to happen,” he said on Thursday, shortly before the call-ups were officially announced. “It's 10 games. When I got my first one in the first game I played, (midfielder) Michael Bradley came up to me and was like, 'Dude, if you're a player who plays in a lot of these games, it's impossible not to get two yellow cards.'”
The Hex has no good-behavior provision, and yellow cards also carry over from previous qualifying rounds. Get two, and it's a one-match suspension.
“I can't really comment on the rule, but that's why you have 23 guys on the roster,” Besler said. “It tests your depth, for sure. If you're looking for guys not to get suspended, then yeah, it's too tight. But if you're looking to test teams' depth, that's what it does.”
Zusi, who has played in eight of the Americans' last nine qualifiers – the exception being a yellow-card suspension of his own against Panama in June – will have played in just three matches this month before joining the national team camp. He returned last weekend from a quad strain sustained in the MLS All-Star Game on July 31.
“If I wasn't fit, I'm sure there wouldn't have been any question,” he said on Thursday. “I'm back to 100 percent now, so Jurgen thought it was safe enough to call me in.”
Zusi has recent experience playing in challenging conditions in Central America, with the start and an assist on Soony Saad's first goal in Tuesday's 2-0 CONCACAF Champions League victory at Honduras' CD Olimpia.
“To get three games under my belt in a short week is definitely going to help in getting back to full match fitness” said Zusi, who along with Besler will be available for Sporting's home match against Colorado on Saturday (8:30 pm, watch FREE on MLS Stream of the Week). “Playing in a hostile environment like Honduras, those kind of games are going to help you.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.