Sporting Sounds: Matt Besler reflects on his famous U.S. MNT performance at Mexico in 2013

Matt Besler with Cauldron postgame - March 7, 2020

Sporting Kansas City captain Matt Besler made his customary appearance on Sports Radio 810 WHB on Thursday morning, joining The Border Patrol hosts Nate Bukaty, Steven St. John and Jake Gutierrez.

With MLS action on hold until at least May 10, the hosts used their time with Besler to reminisce on one of Besler’s greatest performances for the United States Men’s National Team. On March 26, 2013—exactly seven years prior to Thursday’s radio discussion—Besler anchored the USA’s backline in a crucial 0-0 draw against archrivals Mexico at vaunted Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

This was the Americans’ second all-time result in a World Cup qualifying match played on Mexican soil, and Besler’s display ultimately helped him land a regular starting spot that he would keep through the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Listen to the full podcast above and read Besler’s recollection of why he started the Mexico match after making just one previous appearance for the U.S. MNT.

“I was relatively new to the national team pool. The very first call-up I had received was that January. I thought I had played pretty well in the January camp, and I think (USA head coach) Jurgen Klinsmann brought me along for that trip (to Mexico) basically just to give me some experience to see what World Cup qualifying was like—to see what travel was like going down to Mexico in that type of environment. I thought it was him basically saying I didn’t have enough experience playing in these games, but I might be a guy they could use down the road and he could be a great back-up guy for the time being. So let’s bring him along for the trip.

“That was sort of the vibe that I got initially. We played a game a few days (before the Mexico match) against Costa Rica in Colorado. Our two starting center backs played really well, we won the game and we got a shutout. Then we flew down to Mexico and I thought everything was going to stay the same, as it usually does when the team wins and plays well. That was certainly the case when we were down in Mexico training, but the day before the game, one of the starting center backs—Clarence Goodson, who played in the previous game against Costa Rica—pulled his hamstring.

“I remember being at that practice and the coaches all coming together. This was right in the middle of practice. You could tell that they were debating and going through their options on the fly. They were talking about maybe moving back Maurice Edu, who had played in the defensive midfield but had also played center back. I could tell that they were thinking about him and thinking about another guy, but then Jurgen called my name and said, “Matt, you’re with the starting group. Get some reps.”

“So I went in there with the starting group for the rest of training. The next day was game day, and I still wasn’t sure if I was going to play or not. I thought there might be a chance that the coaching staff had more discussions and changed their minds, but in the pregame meeting a couple of hours before kickoff, Jurgen revealed the starting lineup and I was in there. And I guess the rest is history. I played well and we got an extremely good result for us.”