U.S. Soccer announced today that Sporting KC defender Matt Besler will not travel with the U.S. Men's National Team to Panama ahead of their final World Cup qualifier on Tuesday. Graham Zusi, who scored the game-winning goal in the 2-0 win over Jamaica Friday night at Sporting Park, will remain with the squad.
“We wanted to get [San Jose Earthquakes defender] Clarence Goodson a game in one of the last two qualifiers, which is why we are now rotating Matt Besler out,” said USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
Besler has been part of a fierce competition at the center back position having started five World Cup qualifiers alongside LA Galaxy center back Omar Gonzalez. With Gonzalez sidelined by a left hip strain, the Overland Park, Kan. native started Friday night's match at Sporting Park alongside former Houston Dynamo and current Stoke City defender Geoff Cameron.
“I thought we did well," Besler said after the match of his partnership with Cameron. "We were always together and always covering each other.”
Four different center backs have seen time for the USMNT in World Cup qualifiers during the Hex. In addition, three more - Oguchi Onyewu, John Anthony Brooks, Michael Orozco Fiscal - have started for the squad in either the Gold Cup or friendlies throughout the year.
“It’s a good problem to have," captain Tim Howard said of the squad's center back depth. "As I’ve said before, you start getting into World Cups and your playing four or five games. It’s hard to have the same lineup all the time due to injuries and cards and suspensions. You want to have guys that feel comfortable stepping in that aren’t going to feel shaken by the environment.”
Now, Besler will turn his focus back to Sporting Kansas City, who are in the middle of a heated playoff race. The squad currently sits one point back of the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference and MLS Supporters' Shield race.
Sporting KC will host D.C. United on Friday in their final regular season home game. With All-Star center back Aurelien Collin suspended for the match due to yellow card accumulation, Besler is expected to slot back into his starting role alongside Ike Opara.