Ahead of two critical matches in the final round of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi and defender Matt Besler were announced Monday as part of the U.S. mens national teams 23-player camp roster.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Zusi and Besler joined coach Jurgen Klinsmanns squad Sunday in Denver, where the U.S. men will play Costa Rica on Friday at Dicks Sporting Goods Park.
Its the only home match among the first four in the CONCACAF Hexagonal qualifying round for the U.S. men, who also play rival Mexico on March 26 at Mexico Citys Azteca Stadium.
I get just as excited every time I get called up and, obviously, its an honor to be selected again, said Zusi, who has been called into the U.S. mens camp on eight occasions now. Its pretty much a must-win for us. Were definitely going into Colorado needing those three points.
Zusi, 26, appeared in last three World Cup qualifiers during the semifinal round last year all wins and subbed on Feb. 6 during a 2-1 loss at San Pedro Sula, Honduras, in the first match in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying.
Overall, he has made eight appearances for the U.S. men.
Every time youre with the guys, you become more comfortable with them and as much training as you can get helps, said Zusi, who led MLS with 15 assists last season and was a finalist for league MVP. These four or five training sessions before the game on Friday will be very helpful.
Meanwhile, Besler, 26 a native of Overland Park who became the first Kansan to start for the U.S. men when he got the nod during a friendly Jan. 29 against Canada in Houston continues to adapt as well.
He was called into camp for the first time last August ahead of a friendly at Mexico and returned to the U.S. mens camp for the second time in January.
Besler was held over for his third camp before the qualifier against Honduras, though he did not play in that match.
I think Im taking the right steps, Besler said. The Mexico call-up was almost to get my feet wet and to see what its like. The Honduras call-up was more of Im ready to play if they need me. Now, well see when we get there about playing time and opportunities, but I feel like Im definitely a part of this team and Im ready to contribute.
Unlike Sporting KC, 1-1-1, which has a marathon 34-match season to accrue points toward a playoff berth. There are only 10 games in the final round of World Cup qualifying and the U.S. men were the only team not to get a point in the first qualifying match.
Theres pressure on the all the games, especially since we didnt get a result in Honduras and this is our first home game, Besler said. Everyone says the formula is to win your home games and get a point on the road. Were one point behind now since we lost, so the three points against Costa Rica is huge.
Of course, Zusi said not much changes in terms of his mentality wearing the red, white and blue as opposed to Sporting blue.
Its a lot of the same mentality, Zusi said. The only difference is that youre with a new group of guys and the games are I dont want to say more rides on those games, but the margin for error is a little slimmer.
Neither Zusi nor Besler will be available Saturday when Sporting KC travels to play the New England Revolution, who will be without Honduran striker Jerry Bengston.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.