On March 26, 2013, the United States men’s national team marched into Estadio Azteca and played to a 0-0 draw with Mexico — a result that marked the Americans’ second-ever World Cup qualifying point on Mexican soil.
Matt Besler was there.
More than a year later, the U.S. team survived its 2014 FIFA World Cup draw, labeled “the group of death,” and advanced to the Round of 16 in Brazil.
Besler was there, too.
But for the United States’ biggest tournament of 2015, he will be absent.
Three days after he was left off coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, Besler fielded questions for the first time about his exclusion.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed in Jurgen’s decision, but I have to respect it,” said Besler, the captain for Sporting Kansas City. “I will do everything I can to stay mentally and physically ready if he needs me later in the tournament.
“I need to be the best teammate possible to the guys who are going. I fully support them. I wish them the best.”
Sporting KC midfielder Graham Zusi was selected for the tournament, which begins July 7 and concludes July 26.
Klinsmann’s roster selection applies only to the team’s three group-stage matches — July 7 against Honduras, July 10 against Haiti and July 13 against Panama.
If the U.S. advances to the quarterfinals, Klinsmann can make changes to the roster and add Besler. In the 2013 Gold Cup, Besler was left off the initial roster but called in to participate in the knockout rounds.
Asked if he has been given any indication he will be selected for the knockout stage this time around, Besler replied, “I’m not sure. But like I said, I’m ready. I’m ready if he needs me.”
Besler has been a lasting feature with the national team in Klinsmann’s tenure. Since his debut in January 2013, he has made 25 appearances. His performance in the World Cup last summer sparked interest from European clubs before he signed a four-year contract extension to stay with Sporting KC.
He was last called to join the national team in April for a friendly against Mexico, though he sat out the match with an illness.
The U.S. will swing through Sporting Park on July 13 for the final match of group play. Besler wore the red, white and blue at Sporting Park once before — when the Americans played a World Cup qualifier there in October 2013.
He won’t have that chance this time.
“It’s just disappointing. It’s pretty simple,” he said. “It’s hard when you miss out.”
There is one silver lining, of course.
At least for Sporting KC.
The club will have its captain for a July stretch that it initially prepared to encounter with a depleted roster. Zusi will depart Sunday to join the national team, but Sporting KC will keep Besler and Roger Espinoza, who declined a Gold Cup invite from Honduras.
Sporting KC plays host to Colorado at 7:30 p.m. Saturday — a match that has shifted Besler’s focus away from the Gold Cup.
“My mindset is Saturday night. I have no choice,” Besler said. “I’m committed to Saturday night’s game.”