It was an ugly game.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
There’s really no other way to describe the U.S. men’s national team’s 0-0 draw Tuesday against Canada at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.
Unless, of course, you’re Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler, who made his first appearance and start for the U.S. men.
For Besler, an Overland Park native and Blue Valley West graduate, it was a thing of beauty — even if soccer observers unanimously decried the game as a sleep-inducing eyesore.
“Obviously, it was exciting for me,” Besler said. “I know it wasn’t the result we were looking for or that the fans expected, but I did everything I could and we did everything we could to try and get that goal. It wasn’t for a lack of effort.”
Besler learned he would start against Canada on Monday, which made for a tense 24 hours, but once kickoff arrived the nerves he expected for his debut with the red, white and blue melted away.
“I really did feel comfortable,” Besler said. “I thought I was going to be nervous going in, especially since it was the first cap — and that’s a big deal. But really, I just felt confident out there and it just felt like another game. I think that’s a good sign for me for the future, and hopefully there’s many more to come.”
The term cap, which dates back to early 20th-century soccer in the United Kingdom, is synonymous with an appearance for a select team, such as a country’s national team.
Besler, who played in one game with U.S. men’s under-20 national team, was invited to train with the U.S. senior men’s side for the first time in August. He had the best seat in the house for an historic win against rival Mexico at Estadio Azteca, but didn’t play in the game.
Still, he was more nervous watching that match than playing against Canada.
“I was way more nervous in the Mexico friendly on the bench actually, because in that game it was an away game in Azteca and I wasn’t sure if I was going to get in,” he said. “I was thinking about it the whole time. … I had to think about starting (Tuesday’s) game for a whole day, but I was very confident and I was pretty comfortable in the starting role.”
And he may not be done.
Besler, who was the highest-rated player on the Castrol Index against Canada, is back in Kansas City resting after a tough three-week training camp, awaiting word from U.S. men’s coach Jürgen Klinsmann about a possible call-up for the World Cup qualifier Feb. 6 in Honduras.
Most analysts expect Besler to be on the roster for the U.S. men’s first game in The Hex, which is the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
If that happens, it will further delay Besler — and perhaps midfielders Graham Zusi and Benny Feilhaber — from joining Sporting KC’s training.
That is, however, a small price to pay for living a lifelong dream.
“It’s been a long, long journey, but it feels very fulfilling right now,” Besler said. “There’s a lot of factors that go into getting this chance. It starts with youth soccer then high school and college then moving into the professional ranks. There’s just so many levels and goals that you have to hit to get this chance. Looking back, it’s a pretty crazy journey, but it felt amazing and I want more caps now.”
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer