Sporting Kansas City captain Matt Besler has played against Cristiano Ronaldo at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. He has dueled Mexico at the vaunted Estadio Azteca. He has played in four cup finals for Sporting Kansas City.


Thursday’s test—the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League Semifinals at CF Monterrey—is a different animal.


After all, Sporting has never previously reached the semifinals of North America’s premier club competition. Debuting at this stage of the tournament—in one of the toughest places to play on the continent, no less—represents quite the task.


Nevertheless, Besler thinks his squad is ready for the task at hand. Making his customary Sports Radio 810 WHB appearance with Border Patrol hosts Nate Bukaty, Steven St. John and Jake Gutierrez on Wednesday morning, the Sporting KC center back spoke with great enthusiasm about Thursday’s first leg, which will kick off at 9 p.m. CT inside the world-class Estadio BBVA Bancomer.


Sporting enters the fixture on a strong run of form, having blitzed the Montreal Impact in a 7-1 win on Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park. Monterrey, on the other hand, are winless in four straight games despite keeping hold of third place in Liga MX.


Rayados were booed by their own fans following Saturday’s 2-2 home draw with Cruz Azul at Estadio BBVA Bancomer, but Besler thinks this is merely a reflection of the high standard Monterrey has set for the last several seasons.


“It’s clear that they have extremely high expectations at their club, and deservedly so. Monterrey has been one of the most consistent teams in Mexico for the last decade. They’ve won this Champions League tournament three times, so they have a lot of experience at this stage. We all know it’s a really big challenge, but we’re also looking forward to it. We feel like this is a really big opportunity for us.”


As mentioned above, Besler has competed under extremely bright lights before, both with the U.S. Men’s National Team and with Sporting. His approach to this game will be just like high-stakes battles he’s fought in the past.


“This is something of an unknown—I’ve never been to Monterrey and never played in the semifinals of the Champions League. I’m really looking forward to it and embracing this as a new experience. The messages to the group from some of our veteran guys—just enjoy it and take it all in. And when the game starts, be calm.


“It’s going to be exciting and there are going to be nerves, but once the game starts, show your team confidence. We have a really good team, and if we play our best, we’re going to give them a hell of a game.”


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