Matt Besler has been a staple of soccer in Kansas City for nearly 10 years now. With that level of longevity and success with a team, records start to get broken.
Friday night was one of those nights.
The Sporting KC captain’s start in Friday night's 6-0 mauling of the Vancouver Whitecaps was his 228th career start in the club’s colors, drawing him level with assistant coach and former midfielder Kerry Zavagnin in the club’s record book for most regular-season starts. And in the 55th minute, Besler moved past Zavagnin for the most regular-season minutes played, further cementing his status among the club’s legends.
“The fact that we’re still here, and the total has added up, just means that I’m old,” Besler joked. “That’s all it means to me.”
In his usual “others first” mode, Besler went on to praise those who have helped made his record possible.
“The record is a byproduct of a lot of other people,” said the center back. “I’ve been fortunate to be on some great teams. I’ve had a lot of great teammates, and I play for an incredible organization. So, those things are really the reason I’ve been able to play in so many games.”
One person he credited was the man whose records he caught up to this weekend.
“I have the utmost respect for Kerry as a player, and as a coach,” Besler said. “One thing I’ll say about Kerry, is that he never stops coaching me. That’s something I really appreciate.
“It doesn’t matter how old I am, or the fact that I’ve played in a World Cup, whatever the case may be, he’s always tried to make me better. He’s never given up on that. He coaches me hard, and I really have enjoyed that relationship with Kerry.”
The Overland Park, Kansas native was drafted in 2009 by the then-Kansas City Wizards. He was asked if he had any thought back then that his career could’ve gone the way it has.
“No. Not at all,” Besler said. “I was 21 when I got drafted, and I’m still playing 10 years later. I was happy to get drafted, and I was hoping for an opportunity, trying to make the most of an opportunity, and make a roster. And part of that has never left me. That mindset.”
Head coach Peter Vermes has been there almost every step of the way. Vermes replaced Curt Onalfo as the Wizards’ head coach midway through Besler’s rookie season in 2009. Vermes joked in Friday’s post-match press conference that Zavagnin “kept telling me, ‘don’t play him!’”
After the chuckles subsided, Vermes laid out his thoughts on what Besler had accomplished.
“I’m actually really happy that it’s Bees,” said the coach, using Besler’s locker-room nickname. “And the reason why is he’s a guy from here. He really lives and breathes the club. And it means a lot to him to play here.
“He takes poor performances as a team, and individually, very seriously. He feels like he’s letting down the city. For it to be him, I think it’s great. I really do. And I congratulate him because he’s been a consummate professional.”