Most fans missed the head knock Matt Besler suffered on Sunday during first-half stoppage time against FC Dallas at Livestrong Sporting Park.
The crowd was understandably lost in the joy of Aurelien Collin’s game-tying goal, which helped pave the way to Sporting KC’s 2-1 win.
But Besler wasn’t celebrating. He was concerned after getting rocked in the back of the head by Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman.
“I was right behind Collin when Graham (Zusi) took that free kick, and Hartman came out to punch the ball the away but missed,” Besler said. “I originally thought he had punched me instead, but after watching the play, he got me with an elbow.”
After pulling himself up off the turf and gingerly playing the remaining seconds until halftime, Besler made a beeline to Sporting KC head athletic trainer Chet North to get checked out.
Finding that he didn’t exhibit any major concussion symptoms — no headache or dizziness, no memory loss and no cobwebs knocked loose — Besler was cleared for the second half.
“I went through tests at halftime and passed everything; I knew where I was and answered all the questions,” Besler said. “Once I got out there for the second half, I don’t know if it was all the stadium lights or anything, but it was a little fuzzy in the second half.”
Besler considered exiting the game, not wanting to jeopardize Sporting KC’s chances, but instead asked Collin, his fellow central defender, to keep a closer eye on him.
“At one point, he came up to me and said, ‘Stay with me; scream at me to wake me up,’ ” Collin said. “I was worried and asked if he was sure he was OK to play, but he did a very good job and we’re very happy he’s OK.”
Doctors confirmed Monday that the injury wasn’t a concussion, and Besler aced an ImPACT Test — which measures for concussions by comparing current responses to previously taken baseline results — on Tuesday.
Still, Besler returned to practice in a limited role on Wednesday before he was cleared to go full steam ahead on Thursday.
“When you throw around the word concussion, it’s always scary,” Besler said. “I was never officially diagnosed with a concussion, and we took every necessary step to check for that, but it’s still not something you want to mess with or be reckless about.”
Besler’s health scare — coming on the heels of Collin’s departure from a 3-0 victory against the New England Revolution with tightness in his right leg the weekend before — highlights Sporting Kansas City’s need for depth.
It also serves as a reminder that, from a depth perspective, central defense is probably the weakest spot on the team’s roster.
“(Lawrence Olum) can easily go into those positions, and so can Julio (Cesar),” Vermes said. “Julio’s position has been central defender for a number of years. He’s also played defensive midfielder. The way we play, he fits well in that little spot, but he can drop back and play next to Bes or Collin if he has to.”
Nobody wants it to come to that, especially right now, with Sporting KC off to a perfect start through three games.
“Me and Collin, we’re in a really good rhythm right now,” Besler said. “And not just us, but the entire back four. We want to do everything we can to keep that rhythm going, so we don’t want to miss any games.
“Centerback is the type of position where you’re going to lose somebody for a couple games here and there, either because of cards or injury,” Besler added.
“It’s a tough position, and that’s the nature of it, but I’m confident in the guys who are ready to come in.”