The first couple of times Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler looked to his left and saw Seth Sinovic alongside him, he had to do a double take.
Besler and Sinovic played on club teams together for more than a decade from ages 8 to 19, starting with KCFC and eventually moving up to the Wizards Juniors together before going their separate ways in college --- Besler to Notre Dame and Sinovic to Creighton.
Being reunited as professional soccer players for both boys’ hometown Major League Soccer franchise was surreal.
“The first couple games I would look over and think, ’Whoa, that’s Seth. This is crazy, ’” said Besler, a Blue Valley West graduate. “But now I just think it’s awesome. I’m really proud that I made it, and I’m from Kansas City and getting to play for Sporting. I’m sure Seth is, too.”
Of course, the level of unreality and pride Besler and Sinovic, who grew up in Kansas City, Mo., and graduated from Rockhurst High feel as players is doubled for their parents, Greg and Diane Besler as well as Bill and Martha Sinovic.
“It’s hard to fathom your own kid playing professional soccer, and then when you look out and say he might still be playing with a kid he has played with since third grade, it’s unreal,” said Greg Besler, who also coached both Sporting KC defenders in little league baseball.
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“The pros are the pros, and your kid’s your kid,”" Bill Sinovic said. “Can he really go out there and play? Well, I am seeing that he can, but it wasn’t until near the end of his college career when his coach said he might have a future that I really even thought about it.”
Quality left-footed players are a rare commodity, especially in the youth ranks. As a result, both Matt and Seth, who are left-footed, frequently played on the same side.
“Basically, if you ever saw Seth, you’d see Matt or vice versa,” Greg said.
Oddly, it turned out that the fathers also had something in common. Each had been on the Kansas State football team in the 1970s.
Bill Sinovic was the Wildcats’ starting punter and kicker as a junior and senior in 1975 and 1976. He held the K-State record for longest field goal - a 58-yard kick Sept. 11, 1976, in a season-opening 13-3 win against BYU in Manhattan - until 1988.
Greg Besler was a walk-on defensive back in 1978.
The two bonded as K-State fans, but they only recently realized each had played (or at least practiced in Greg’s case) for the Wildcats.
“We could talk K-State stuff, but the real bond we had among those parents who were involved with the team from 8-years old and up was with soccer more than anything,” Bill said. “It was a great group that traveled all the time to games. It was nice to be able to talk K-State, too, but it was more about the soccer.”
Well, soccer and their sons, anyway.
“Aside from my own parents, Mr. Sinovic has probably seen me play the most,” Matt said. “He’s seen all my games growing up. Literally, he was probably at every one of my youth games.”
They faced off as opponents once in college, a 4-1 victory for Besler’s Fighting Irish in the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament on Aug. 27, 2006, in South Bend, Ind. They also met as opponents as pros Oct. 16, 2010, when Seth was playing for the New England Revolution.
Both players went 90 minutes as Seth managed to even the all-time head-to-head record with a 1-0 win in Foxboro, Mass.
“Each time we see each other, we remark how special it must be for them,” Greg Besler said. “A day doesn’t go by that we don’t think about how cool it is they still get to play together. The fact that they could play next to each other for a while is even more special.
“Both of them are in the early parts of career but have become established players. These guys could be a part of the foundation for a while to come, which is probably even more amazing.”
That almost wasn’t the case when Seth was left unprotected in the MLS expansion draft and was picked by the Montreal Impact.
Sporting KC re-acquired him a few days later --- “Three really bad days,” Bill said --- in exchange for Davy Arnaud and allocation money.
Of course, that’s water under the bridge now for the whole Sporting KC clan.
“It’s cool that Martha and I and Greg and Diane can keep watching games like we have since they were this tall,” said Bill Sinovic, holding out his hand 4 feet off the ground, “except now we don’t take them out for ice cream afterward.”