On making the U.S. Men’s National Team 30-player preliminary roster for the 2014 World Cup…

Zusi: It’s an honor to make the 30-man preliminary roster. Like all of us know, there’s still a lot of work to be done before the final roster is announced. It’s amazing that the work we’ve put into it is paying off. It’s an exciting time for all of us.


Besler: I’m excited and honored. But more importantly I’m looking forward to getting into camp with our teammates and (working hard). I think we’re all ready and anxious to start. We’re going to put in the work and hopefully peak at the right time.


On the 30 players selected for the preliminary USMNT roster…

Besler: There will be some surprises, I’m sure. People will argue players here or there. For us, the 30 guys called in are the guys the coaches decided on. We’re going to do our best to come together as a team, and it’s going to be competitive. There are going to be some tough decisions—possibly some surprising decisions—still to come.


On how they learned they had been selected for the preliminary roster…

Zusi: The process for us is that we get an email from U.S. Soccer. I think we got that email Saturday night, so we’ve known for two days now. It’s not something we’ve known for awhile. Neither of us got a call from (U.S. head coach) Jurgen Klinsmann—that’s not how he goes about his business.


Besler: I opened up an email, saw I was on the preliminary roster and that we’d have to report after May 14.


On making the preliminary roster after playing together for five years and living together during their rookie MLS season in 2009…

Zusi: I think it’s a really cool story to look at. Matt and I came into the league and we were the only two rookies with the Wizards back then. We instantly had to bond because of our rookie duties, so we instantly became friends. To go through all the steps that we had, pretty much simultaneously—progressing together, first with our club team and then taking the next step with the national team—is something you don’t see very often. It’s been a great journey for Matt and I. It’s fun to have a familiar face there through uncertain times—a friend that you can bounce stuff off of. It makes it easier to have someone there to (help you) deal with things on a daily basis.


Besler: The one thing me and Graham have is a competitive nature. Neither of us have ever admitted it to each other, and neither of us really will admit it, but we’re competitive with each other in a very positive way. Through this whole professional career we’ve had together, we’ve pushed each other along the way very silently. We’ve been there for each other, but there’s this competitive nature that we have where we both want to succeed. We’ve used each other at times to get there. And like Graham said, it’s fun. Graham and I were warming up together against Mexico at Estadio Azteca (before a friendly match) in front of 100,000 people. We’re looking over at each other 20 minutes before kickoff and we’re just laughing like, “What the heck are we doing here?” At the end of the day, it’s really enjoyable and we’re having a blast doing this.


On dreaming of playing in the World Cup…

Besler: I’m going to steal a line from Bubba Watson when he won the Masters. He said he never even got that (close to winning) in his dreams. That’s true for me. Yeah, I guess I dreamed of playing in the World Cup—but honestly, not really. I just wanted to be a professional soccer player. I really didn’t think about the World Cup. I never really thought it would be possible when I was 10 years old. It’s hard for me to say if it was ever a dream.


Zusi: You put yourself in the position when you’re six years old that you’re about to take the World Cup-winning PK. But you don’t think it’s ever really going to happen. It’s something that I’ve dreamed of, but I don’t know if I thought it was going to become a reality. That’s kind of the special part for me—the amount of work that we’ve put into this game has paid off. Matt and I are probably two of the hardest working people you’ll meet.


On the prospect of playing in one of the World Cup’s toughest groups…

Besler: I think we all understand that we have a major challenge ahead of us, scheduling-wise, travel-wise, opponent-wise. In order for us to advance and be successful in this tournament, we’re going to have to play our best soccer. From day one, that’s what we’re going to be focused on—trying to get the best out of every player. If we can play our best, I think everyone on the squad truly believes we will be able to advance.


On their mindset heading into the USMNT camp…

Zusi: We’re going to this camp the same as every other person on the (30-man) roster. We want to make that final roster, and we’ll do whatever we can to do that. I don’t allow myself to think that far ahead. I don’t think about trying to solidify myself in the starting eleven because there’s too much work to be done between now and then.


Besler: The mentality doesn’t ever change. You have to prove yourself every single day in camps. It doesn’t matter who you are, and I think Jurgen (Klinsmann) has proven that with some of his selections on the team. A guy like Landon (Donovan), arguably the best player in U.S. history, has to prove himself every day just like anyone else on the team. That’s the mentality.


On representing Kansas City at the World Cup after growing up in the area…

Besler: It’s very special. Kansas City will always be a big part of me. I’ll carry that with me wherever I go or wherever I play. When I play for the national team, I really do feel like I’m playing for the city. Some people may not believe that, but I really do feel that way. I know a lot of people care about soccer in this city because I’ve seen it. A lot of times (Kansas City soccer fans) don’t get the respect they deserve. So when I go onto the national stage, there’s part of me that is trying to represent Kansas City.


On the physical challenge of moving from Sporting KC to the USMNT…

Zusi: I think it equates to about the same number of games. We’re missing about six (MLS) games in Kansas City, and we’ll probably play around six matches with the national team. I don’t think it’s much of an issue. Both clubs do a fantastic job preparing our bodies the correct way and giving us the proper amount of time to recover. Playing in that Brazil heat, we’ll probably be in even better shape coming back (to Sporting KC).


Besler: You build your base fitness in the offseason. You can look at it like a gas tank. You try and make your tank as big as you can by doing fitness in the offseason. At the beginning of the season you can fill your tank, and the entire year you’re using gas. The bigger your tank is, the better you’ll be fitness-wise—you’ll never run out of gas. Graham and I have taken off-seasons very seriously to prepare for a year like this where there will be a lot of games. I don’t think it’s going to be an issue.


On competing directly with other players on the 30-man preliminary roster in order to make the final 23-man roster for the World Cup…

Zusi: I’ve played right midfielder for the majority of my time with the national team. That midfield spot is (strong)—myself, Alejandro Bedoya, Landon Donovan, Brad Davis. All of us are going to be competing for those spots. I don’t think Jurgen (Klinsmann) is saying, “Okay, I’m going to take two right midfielders, two central midfielders and two left midfielders.” We’ll all be competing with each other to fill those spots.


Besler: The position I play is going to be under the microscope. The U.S. defense has a lot of competition for spots, but I think my position isn’t an individual position. You don’t defend by yourself. So you don’t go into camp with the attitude that you’re going to stand out yourself. Every defender goes in and tries to play together. That’s how you look good. If you can start building chemistry with guys and work well together as a back four, that’s going to give you the best chance to look good and make the final roster.


On their skillsets evolving over time…

Zusi: Our games are constantly evolving. We’re always presented with different situations, whether it’s a different opponent or a different position. This is a learning game. I’m always trying to learn my position and learn more about the game. When you’re learning about those situations, it can become second nature to you. And when you’re in a situation you’ve been in before, you react and adapt better every time. It’s an ongoing process, but I try to learn from this game every time I play.


On the U.S. defense receiving criticism from the media…

Besler: There’s a question (about the defense) because there’s not a lot of experience. As a team, we don’t look into that at all. We don’t read criticism or really care about it. We’re putting our head down and we’re focused on improving and playing our best soccer as a team and as a country.


On how Sporting KC has helped them succeed with the USMNT…

Besler: We’re two of the best examples of guys that have been at one club for their career. We’ve shown that you can develop in (MLS) and in this country. We’ve both known that for a long time, but other people are starting to realize it. You can develop here in the United States playing Major League Soccer. Graham and I take that very seriously. We understand it’s a very competitive league—not an easy league at all. We come to practice every day knowing that we can develop and improve. A lot of credit has to be given to the club—the coaches, the other guys on the team. We’ve evolved over the last couple years into one of the best teams in the league. Graham and I probably wouldn’t be sitting here if that didn’t happen.


Zusi: We’re here right now because of our club. It’s as simple as that. The standard that has been set here has translated to the field. Without the success we’ve had as a club, the individual success just isn’t going to be there. All credit goes to what this club has done as a whole. That’s when the individual talent starts getting recognized as well. That first year that we were Sporting KC (in 2011) was the first year some of our players were getting attention from the national team.

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