Matt Besler and Graham Zusi enjoyed breakout seasons for the United States men’s national team this year. Those duties limited their time with Sporting Kansas City.
But not their impact.
For the second consecutive season, Besler and Zusi were announced Tuesday as members of the MLS Best XI team, awarded to the top 11 players in the league.
The honor comes four days before the two will lead Sporting KC against Real Salt Lake in the MLS Cup at 3 p.m. Saturday in Sporting Park.
“So far, it’s been a great year,” Zusi said. “When you have as many guys around you who are so dangerous, it’s easy to find yourself open as well sometimes. I have a great cast around me. They make it easy at times.”
Zusi set a new career high with six goals for Sporting KC and added eight assists, tied for 11th in the league.
He also scored twice for the national team in World Cup qualifying matches this year, including the first tally in a match against Jamaica at Sporting Park in October.
He scored a game-tying goal against Panama four days later, which made him a fan favorite in Mexico. The goal helped Mexico advance in qualifying.
Besler started 23 games for Sporting KC while leading a defense that allowed only a league-low 30 goals in 34 matches — 10 fewer goals than any other team in the Eastern Conference. He also made his debut for the national team in January, and soon after became the regular starting left center back for coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
“The goal I set for myself was to have the best defense in the league,” Besler said. “Last year we gave up the fewest goals, and I knew we had the chance to do that again this year. … For us to give up the fewest goals two years running, that was the achievement I was looking forward to the most and the one I’m most proud of.”