Matt Besler has played in big matches during his international career. Games like the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final; World Cup qualifiers in Mexico (Estadio Azteca), Jamaica (National Stadium, aka The Office) and Costa Rica (Estadio Nacional); and, of course, all four of the United States' matches at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
But the Sporting Kansas City captain said none of those atmospheres could compare to Saturday's CONCACAF Cup between the USA and Mexico in front of nearly 94,000 fans at the sold-out Rose Bowl in California.
“It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had as a player and that’s coming off of a loss, too, so you can imagine what that felt like," Besler said during this week's Sporting KC Show. "Atmosphere wise, it was the best atmosphere that I’ve been a part of as a player. That speaks to both sets of fans because they were going back and forth all night."
Besler earned his 27th cap, playing the full 120 minutes as the U.S. fell 3-2 on Paul Aguilar's 118th minute game-winning strike in extra time.
"When Bobby scored our second goal in extra time, it’s a feeling I’ll never forget — just the way that he scored and being able to tie it up. At the end of the day, it is a game I’ll always remember. Unfortunately, it’s extremely disappointing that we weren’t able to win the game," Besler said. "We put a lot of preparation and hard work into it. We came up a little bit short and that’s always disappointing. It’s going to sting for a while.”
The loss — the United States' first defeat to Mexico under Jurgen Klinsmann — will see the U.S. MNT miss out on the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.
“I think there’s always going to be regret when you lose," Besler said. "It definitely wasn’t a lack of effort on our part. You have to credit Mexico. They were able to execute their game plan and make plays when it counted.”
For the United States, the attention now turns to 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying, which begins Nov. 13 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
For Besler, he returns home fully focused on Sporting Kansas City's drive to the 2015 playoffs, presented by Shawnee Mission Kia.
"I think the team is feeling good," Besler said. "We always say at the beginning of the year that we want to be playing meaningful games at the end of the season. The rest of the way they’re going to be extremely meaningful. I think we gained a lot of confidence the last three weeks with the Open Cup win and then going up to Portland and getting a win. I have a feeling that’s going to carry over.
"We’re starting to get guys back off of injury. I know the team’s feeling fresh, feeling healthy — that’s something that was different than last year so that’s a good sign. We’re going to go after it. We’ve already got one trophy. We’ve had that taste of winning already this season and I can guarantee that we want more."
A postseason berth will be there for the taking when Sporting Kansas City plays their final road game of the regular season on Friday in San Jose against an Earthquakes side that prevailed 5-0 in the previous meeting.
"It’s really about us putting ourselves in the right position and taking care of business," Besler said. "Another thing to think about too — probably more important than getting back at them for how they played and beat us at home — is San Jose’s fighting for a playoff spot. So it’s an opportunity for us to not allow them to get points and to potentially knock them out of the playoffs. So I think that’s where the motivating factors are going to be."
For more from Besler, listen to the full audio archive of The Sporting KC Show below with hosts Nate Bukaty, Andy Gruenebaum and Carter Augustine. Besler's interview begins at the 36-minute mark.