Matt Besler starts for U.S. in 6-1 win over St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Matt Besler - United States Men's National Team vs. St. Vincent - Nov. 13, 2015

Sporting Kansas City captain Matt Besler and the United States Men’s National Team made a winning start in their quest to the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Friday. Besler played 90 minutes as the U.S. kicked off the semifinal round of CONCACAF qualifying with a 6-1 victory over St. Vincent and the Grenadines at a sold-out Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Besler earned the 28th cap of his career as U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann opted for the same center back pairing—Besler alongside Geoff Cameron—that featured in the CONCACAF Cup last month. The duo anchored a backline that conceded just two shots, while goals on the opposite end from Cameron, Jozy Altidore (2), Bobby Wood, Fabian Johnson and Gyasi Zardes cemented a comfortable result before 45,000 spectators.

Besler nearly opened his international scoring account with a pair of set piece headers in the second half. The first opportunity came in the 49th minute when he nodded a cross from Jermaine Jones inches wide of the post. He came even closer in the 70th minute, flicking on a Michael Bradley corner kick that caromed off the crossbar and out of play.

Despite suffering the heavy defeat, St. Vincent and the Grenadines took a surprise lead shortly after kickoff. Oalex Anderson cut into the penalty area from the left wing and curled a shot past Brad Guzan in the fifth minute.

St. Vincent’s lead was brief, however, as Wood’s header restored parity in the 11th minute. Johnson scored the match-winner in the 29th minute from a well-struck free kick that deflected off the St. Vincent wall before beating goalkeeper Winslow Mcdowall. Altidore made it 3-1 just two minutes later, finding space at the far post to nod home after Jones had flicked Johnson’s corner across the face of goal.

The U.S. outshot their Caribbean foes 20-2 and enjoyed 83 percent possession on the night. That dominance manifested itself in the second half as Klinsmann’s side added three additional goals. Cameron converted six minutes after the restart, latching onto Wood’s headed pass following another free kick from Johnson. Altidore assisted on Gyasi Zardes’ strike in the 58th minute and completed his brace with a deflected effort in the 74th.

Friday’s win extended the Americans’ home unbeaten streak in World Cup Qualifying matches to 28 games dating back to 2001. Sitting atop Group C after the first match day, the U.S. continues its fourth round qualifying campaign Tuesday at Trinidad and Tobago. The game will be broadcast live on beIN Sports and NBC Universo beginning at 5:25 p.m. CT.

The U.S. will play St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and El Salvador home and away over the course of the next 10 months. The top two finishers from each of the three semifinal groups will move on to the fifth and final round of qualifying, which is nicknamed “The Hexagonal” — often abbreviated to “The Hex” — after the six teams remaining in the competition.

Besler logged 38 appearances for Sporting Kansas City in 2015 and guided the club to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championship. He led MLS in clearances while adding a career-high four assists in all competitions. The Overland Park, Kansas, native was named an MLS All-Star for the fourth time and shared Sporting KC Defensive Player of the Year honors with Soni Mustivar.

Besler made his international debut in January 2013 and helped lead the U.S. to the CONCACAF Gold Cup title later that year. He was also a key contributor during the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, starting all four matches as the Americans advanced to the Round of 16.