The transition from a local high school athlete to professional stardom continues for Matt Besler.
The hometown kid is now the hometown captain.
Sporting Kansas City announced Tuesday that Besler will wear the captain’s armband for the 2014 season, which opens Saturday with a trip to Seattle. He succeeds goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, who retired in December after the club hoisted the MLS Cup trophy.
“It’s a huge honor,” said Besler, who starred at Blue Valley West. “I’m grateful and I’m excited. I’ll do my best to represent my team well.”
Besler was announced to his new role in front of a crowd of about 2,000 people at the Sporting Takeoff celebration inside the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport. The event also included the unveiling of new secondary jerseys, which feature horizontal stripes across the chest.
Besler emerged onto the makeshift stage Tuesday after walking through a human-made tunnel formed by his teammates.
That was their sign of approval.
The coach offered his approval with words.
“I’ve been very tough on him over the years, but there’s not a guy more committed to this team,” coach Peter Vermes said. “It’s not just because he’s from Kansas City. He truly personifies the quality of team first. ... There’s a lot of guys within the team that all have their good qualities, but he’s the right guy to take this group into the next phase.”
Drafted by the Sporting KC franchise in 2009, Besler has grown into one of the league’s most reliable defenders and a regular member of the United States men’s national team. He was the MLS defender of the year in 2012.
Along the journey, Besler has played for a variety of captains — all of who will play a part in the way he leads.
“I’m going to take some things here and there from everyone I played with, and absolutely I’ll take some things from Jimmy,” Besler said. “At the same time, I’m a different person than Jimmy. I have a different style. I’m going to stay true to who I am.”
That style, Besler says, will be displayed on the field as much as it will be heard.
“I believe you have to lead by example first,” he said. “That’s the key — being a hard worker, being an honest worker and being a team player. The other stuff comes with it — the off-the-field leadership, the motivation, the (representation) of your teammates.”Draft pick signed
Sporting KC announced Tuesday it has signed Alex Martinez, its third-round pick in the MLS SuperDraft. Martinez, who played at North Carolina State the past two seasons, appeared in seven of the team’s 10 preseason matches.
“I have worked for this my whole life,” Martinez said. “Since I was 3 or 4 years old, I have wanted to play professional soccer. Now that it’s happened, I want to make the most of the opportunity.”
Martinez is the first player from the 2014 draft class to sign with Sporting KC.Injury update
Sporting KC forward C.J. Sapong, who missed the final two preseason games with a right leg bruise, said Tuesday he will be ready to play Saturday in Seattle.
Defender Seth Sinovic, who exited the preseason finale Saturday with a hip injury, practiced Tuesday and reported no setbacks. He also expects to play in the season opener.