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Besler poised to build on success vs. Mexico with likely chance vs. Germany

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WASHINGTON – Matt Besler did not start for the U.S. Men’s National Team in Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to Belgium, and given how poorly the U.S. defense performed that night, Besler may have seen his stock rise higher than the other three defenders vying for centerback minutes for Jurgen Klinsmann.

Given the struggles of Omar Gonzalez and Clarence Goodson against the Belgians, and given the fact that Geoff Cameron appears to be needed more at right back, Besler could see his hold on a regular starting centerback spot solidify if he can turn in a good showing against Germany. It is not a guarantee that he will start, but his outstanding performance against Mexico in March should help the Sporting Kansas City standout earn a start against the Germans.

Not only does Besler merit a look due to his showing at Estadio Azteca in March, but playing Germany would provide some invaluable experience for the central defender of the four currently in camp with the U.S. with the fewest national team caps. The 26-year old has played in just three matches at the international level and all have come this year, but that is still not keeping him from being in the mix for a start in this Sunday’s high-profile friendly against Germany and beyond.

“We’ve got five games and there’s bound to be changes. It will be impossible to play the same team five games in a row,” said goalkeeper Tim Howard. ” We’ve got to look ahead not only to this game but to what next week brings and there will be changes after that due to injuries, hopefully not, yellow cards, all that type of stuff. There will certainly be changes.”

While Besler admitted prior to the U.S.’s training session on Monday at American University that his mindset is on competing for a starting role, he also said he is not concerning himself too much with the open competition that appears to be going on between him, Omar Gonzalez, Clarence Goodson and Geoff Cameron.

What Besler is focusing on is trying to learn as much as possible in each training session, just in case his number is called at some point during the Americans’ next four games. In fact, the savvy Besler already took away a valuable lesson from the Belgium match at FirstEnergy Stadium despite playing only 21 minutes as a second-half substitute.

“I look at the players they have and they’re all dangerous players, attacking wise, so the margin for error when you play those teams is a lot smaller than any other team,” said Besler. “You can’t be as aggressive defensively. You have to play smart.”

Besler intends to try and execute that strategy should he take to the field against Germany in the U.S.’s centennial match at RFK Stadium on Sunday. The Sporting Kansas City centerback knows, however, that that is easier said than done.

Germany did not bring their top players to the U.S. capital, but they still boast a talented squad that should present plenty of problems to the Americans. Germany head coach Jogi Low – who saw his side cruise to a 4-2 victory over Ecuador at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Fla. on Wednesday – has the likes of Lazio’s Miroslav Klose and Arsenal’s Lukas Podolski at his disposal and that should more than assure a busy day at the office for whoever starts in the U.S. back line.

Besler is well aware that playing against Germany in just his fourth cap would be a big challenge, especially considering that he is close to but not at full fitness after only recently recovering from a minor MCL injury sustained while with Sporting KC (which may or may not have played a role in him being benched vs. Belgium). But what is working in his favor is that he is not unfamiliar with being abruptly thrown into the deep end by U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

“They’ve all been tough lately: Mexico, Belgium,” said Besler, who debuted against Canada in January before surprisingly starting in the Americans’ scoreless draw at Estadio Azteca in World Cup qualifying in March. “But, again, it’s going to be another tough test for us. These two games, they’re prep games, they’re prep games for the qualifiers, and that’s really the mindset that we have: getting ready for the qualifiers.”

If Besler is deemed fit enough to get the nod on Sunday, he will have a golden opportunity to stake his claim for a starting spot in the heart of the U.S. defense ahead of three key upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Jamaica, Panama and Honduras.

Besler could not have envisioned such a scenario a year ago but the opportunity is there for the taking and the defense seems tailor-made for him due to Klinsmann’s desire to build out of the back with short and smart passes.

“I think that fits my style but again it’s just playing more as a team,” said Besler. “At times, I think we were a bit spread out in the (Belgium) game and it all starts with us in the back. Defensively, obviously, it starts with us but even with the ball, too. If we can control the tempo from the back, we’re going to be in really good shape.”

If Besler can do that vs. the Germans, he will take a major step toward being one of Klinsmann’s starting centerback options in the June World Cup qualifiers, and an important step toward going from being the most inexperienced of the U.S. centerbacks to vying to be the best of them.


  1. I have been rolling this around in the old noggin, and part of the reason I think OG4–Besler can work so well together as a CB tandem is that they basically can inhabit the same roles they have for their club teams. Besler plays opposite Aurelien Collin, who is basically the French version of OG4–an aerially dominant, physical, aggressive, and sometimes positionally-challenged centerback. And Gonzo has played opposite AJ DeLaGarza for so long–someone who hasn’t relied on physicality so much as on positioning–that he can afford to be that player.

    Hopefully JK sees this and allows these two guys to continue getting minutes together on the MNT.

  2. Klinsmann is probably the only coach in the world who would not have allowed Besler and Gonzo to build on their stunning dual performances against Mexico by starting them in a friendly againsts Belgium. Let’s hople that Klinsmann is humble enough to admit his mistake, and it was a huge mistake, and starts Gonzo and Besler against Germany for some chemistry building.

    • I agree with the overall sentiment, and I think if it had been a competitive fixture we might have seen Gonzo–Besler, but in fairness to JK, Besler wasn’t *supposed* to start against Mexico–it was going to be Goodson–Gonzo again after their performance in the SnowClasico (and it should be noted that Goodson really was quite good in that game) before Goodson did the classy thing and admitted his injury for the good of the team. I could definitely see JK saying to himself, “It’s just a friendly, and it wasn’t Goodson’s fault he had to be dropped–in fact he did the right thing. Let’s see if he still has it.”

  3. for better or worse, this remains the best footballing (read – intelligence) option at center back.
    her is the real depth-chart:


    • Parkhurst?

      And I can give you the benefit of the doubt on Bocanegra, even though he is a bit slow and not getting called up. I would like to see him tried with Besler.
      No thanks on Goodson.

      There is a reason that Ream is not getting called up.

      Gonzo is good, he just needs more seasoning. He has the physical and ball skills, he just needs to get rid of mental lapses. He gets caught ball watching at least once a game. More time playing should get rid of that.

  4. I’m more excited about Besler than any of the other CBs. He’s an organizer…pair him with Cameron and start them every opportunity from now through the WC.

  5. Lets Just Put it This Way ….. Omar the Enforcer + Besler the Tactician = A better Defense….. Proof in point look at how SKC and La Galaxy play at Centerback you have Besler with recovery speed and possesion and Collin with the muscle and aerial power vice versa with Aj De La Garza being the speedy recovery officer while Omar is the enforcer…. Omar+Besler = Pairing of the Future
    Matt Besler is a modern Centerback while Omar is the Classic Rugged Soldier who does the dirty work.

  6. Only recently can I remember the squad talking about playing out of the back. This is good news since one of our biggest faults has been the inability to retain possession and dictate the flow of matches.

    Slowly but surely we will transition from a counter attacking team to a more well rounded team.

    • They’ve been talking about it since JK took over.

      But actually doing it to where it is second nature is another thing.

  7. Besler’s got a very high soccer IQ. I was really impressed with the things he had to say when he was on The SBI Show after the Mexico game. If he keeps getting playing time, he’ll keep learning, and he’ll apply it. He could be a useful player for us.

    • Haven’t heard the interview, but he does strike me as having a high soccer IQ, as you say. Obviously that’s what he will need in a central defensive role.

      • Besler is well-known among the SKC fanbase as being the mastermind of the back four. Aurelien Collin is talented and gets plenty of attention as well, but Besler is the acknowledged on-field leader and organizer of the back four. When Davy Arnaud was traded to Montreal, there was lots of talk that Besler would be given the armband (before Jimmy Nielsen was picked) despite being just 24 or so at the time. Both his soccer IQ and his leadership are off the charts.

      • I’d like to see him start. I hope the soccer IQ and speed thing is true.

        But on that play he almost gave up a PK he initially seemed a step slow and naive to soccer iq wise to try to cut it off from that angle rather than stand him up

      • I’m not so sure the speed thing is true. Besler has never been known for his pace, and on a USMNT with players like DMB and EJ, I highly doubt that Besler is, in fact, the fastest player there.

        But coming in as a substitute CB is a tall order. There’s a reason coaches NEVER substitute defenders in competitive fixtures unless they absolutely have to–it is because you’re interrupting the flow and chemistry of a cohesive unit, and are expecting a new player to get up to game speed immediately, where one mistake is the difference between a goal and a clean sheet. On top of that, Besler was coming back from a knee injury and may not have been at his quickest. I wouldn’t read too much into his brief performance against Belgium.

      • they also never get substituted because they usually have the play in front of them, thus, they should never be more tired than mids or forwards.

  8. During the commentary of the Belgium friendly they said that Matt Besler is the fastest player on the team right now. Is that right? I’ve never really heard anybody talk about Besler’s speed and I don’t watch him often enough to know. Does he have enough speed to cover for a slower CB partner (e.g., Gonzales)? I couldn’t believe how often our CB’s were trailing the play against Belgium…

      • No, nobody is joking. In case you weren’t paying attention they said Besler was the fastest player on the field against Belgium.

      • I like everyone else was surprised by that comment as well. Right after they said that he did have a foot race against benteke or lukaku that he won. Still surprises me, but great if true.

      • Fastest player on the ROSTER. Very surprising since EJ is on that roster. If true, it makes him a much more desirable partner for OG or Cameron, esp with JK’s high pressure system which leaves the back line vulnerable to direct balls. They need at least one CB with good wheels .

    • Cameron used to be noted for his speed but I never hear anyone talk about it anymore.
      You could have Usain Bolt’s speed and it wouldn’t do you any good if you make mental mistakes and position yourself badly.

      That is a lot of what you saw against Belgium.


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