Sporting KC sends three to national teams
Three Sporting Kansas City players will be with their respective national teams for Wednesday’s FIFA friendly match date, the club announced on Sunday. All three players were an integral part in Sporting Kansas City’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championship on Wednesday, as well as the team’s 2-1 win at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park last night that moved Sporting KC into first place in the Eastern Conference.
Defender Matt Besler and midfielder Graham Zusi will join the United States Men’s National Team for their international match against CONCACAF rivals Mexico at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. Midfielder Roger Espinoza returns to the Honduras Men’s National Team following a strong showing at the London 2012 Olympic Games for a friendly against Argentine club powerhouse Boca Juniors at Sun Life Stadium in Miami.
Besler, 25, is one of two players on the 23-person roster to receive his first invitation to the U.S. squad, having previously taken part at the Under-20 level while attending the University of Notre Dame in 2006. A 2011 MLS All-Star and Sporting Kansas City’s Defensive Player of the Year last season, Besler has appeared in 96 MLS matches (including postseason) for the club since being drafted in the first round of the 2009 SuperDraft.
The Overland Park, Kan. native recorded his first assist of the season in last night’s 2-1 win over D.C. United and has anchored a Sporting KC defense that leads MLS with a 0.92 goals against average and the fewest shots allowed (245) this season.
“I’ve been working hard to get the chance and it’s a blessing, so I hope to make the very best of it,” Besler said. “It’ll make it easier to have [Zusi] there; he’s been there before. Obviously I know him very well, so hopefully he’ll help ease the process for me.”
Zusi, 25, embarks on his third camp under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. After making his international debut against Venezuela in January and scoring the game-winning goal against Panama four days later, Zusi was also invited to the team’s training camp in May.
A University of Maryland product, Zusi scored his third goal of the season for Sporting Kansas City on Saturday and recorded his tenth assist of the year, tying him for most in Major League Soccer in 2012. One of five players on the U.S. roster to play in the 2012 AT&T MLS All-Star Game last month, Zusi has appeared in 89 MLS matches (including postseason) since being drafted in the second round of the 2009 SuperDraft.
“It’s an honor to be called in. Whenever you get the chance to really showcase yourself and get a chance with the U.S. team, it’s a great opportunity,” Zusi said. “I just want to take advantage of it and do the best that I can with it. I’m really excited to see Besler get called in as well. It’s a good testament to what the team has been accomplishing as of late. When you’re winning and playing well, that’s when you get noticed the most.”
The United States, No. 36 in the latest FIFA rankings, will kick off against Mexico at 7 p.m. CT on Wednesday, live on ESPN2 (English) and Univision (Spanish). Klinsmann will take part in a media conference call at 4 p.m. CT today to preview the match.
Espinoza, 25, will continue his busy summer after starting three matches for the Honduras Olympic Team in London and scoring in the team’s quarterfinal match against eventual runners-up Brazil. The 2012 MLS All-Star has appeared in 111 MLS matches (including postseason) since being drafted in the first round of the 2008 SuperDraft out of Ohio State University and is one of six MLS players on Honduras’ 20-man roster.
“It’s exciting to go see all the guys and a lot of the Olympic guys got called up just because of the work they did at the Olympics, so it’s going to be exciting,” Espinoza said. “It’s Boca Juniors, one of the best teams in the world. Obviously, they’re very tough and they were just in the Copa Libertadores final, so they’re a very good team with a lot of history.”
All three players are expected to be available for Sporting Kansas City’s next MLS match at 3:30 p.m. CT on Saturday at Toronto FC. The match will air live on KSMO-TV, with pre-game coverage beginning at 3 p.m. CT.