In the end, staying with Sporting Kansas City didn’t prove to be a tough decision for Matt Besler.
Despite trial offers from Queens Park Rangers and Birmingham City in England along with Geld in Belgium’s first division, Besler opted to stick with his hometown team Wednesday, signing a three-year deal rather than test the waters in Europe.
“Once I factored in everything Sporting KC had to offer, it was an easy decision,” Besler said. “I’ve said all along this is where I want to stay and this is where I want to play.”
Sporting KC, of course, is thrilled to bring back Besler, the reigning MLS Defender of Year after anchoring a defense that allowed the fewest goals in the league last season (27).
Coach Peter Vermes said re-signing Besler was among the top offseason priorities for Sporting KC, which has won two straight Eastern Conference regular-season crowns and claimed the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title in August.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of other things that we’re trying to get accomplished, but there’s no doubt he’s an important piece to our core group and we wanted to keep that intact,” Vermes said.
An Overland Park native and Blue Valley West graduate, Besler, 25, missed three games in June after undergoing an emergency appendectomy, but he still started 30 of 34 games — cementing himself as an indispensable member of the back line through his steady presence, strong left foot and trademark long throw-in.
“I really like the group of guys that Peter has put together, and I really do believe that we have the potential to win championships next year and for years to come,” Besler said. Besler, who was the highest-ranked defender on the MLS Castrol Index last season, enjoyed a breakout season in 2011 when he started 32 games for Sporting KC and was voted to the MLS All-Star Game.
After finalizing the deal Wednesday morning, Besler called his parents, Greg and Diane, to officially deliver the news.
“Every indication I gave them was that I wanted to stay,” Besler said. “I’ve said all along that Kansas City is where I wanted to play and where I want to win at.” And he may never have the desire to leave.
“Oh yeah, if you told me in eight years or 10 years that I was still playing for Sporting and we had won multiple championships, I would be extremely happy and I’d shake your hand,” said Besler, who was called into the U.S. men’s national team camp for the first time in August.
Wednesday afternoon, Sporting KC also added depth at centerback, sending the second-round pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft to the San Jose Earthquakes for Ike Opara.
“Three years ago, when he was coming out at the same time Teal (Bunbury) was, he was a guy that was definitely on our radar,” Vermes said. “Now that we had a chance to get him, it actually has worked out great.”
Opara, whose first two seasons in the league were cut short by foot injuries, was an important addition as Sporting KC continues to chase an MLS Cup, looks to defend its Open Cup crown and eyes a championship run in CONCACAF Champions League next season.
“I felt like I wanted a new environment, and with the three competitions, I feel confident there will be a chance for me to show my worth,” Opara said. Opara, 23, played 16 games last season, including seven starts for the Earthquakes, who won the Supporter’s Shield as the regular season’s best squad.