Two days before his club opens the 2020 MLS regular season on Canadian soil against Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler made his customary appearance on Sports Radio 810 for a 2020 preview with The Border Patrol hosts Nate Bukaty, Jake Gutierrez and Steven St. John.
Besler enters the new campaign as the second-longest tenured MLS player alongside teammate Graham Zusi. The duo have experienced remarkable success during their stints in Kansas City, hoisting four major championships and making eight appearances in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Last year was a departure from the norm, as perennial title contenders Sporting missed the postseason for the first time since 2010. However, Besler believes the squad is better positioned this year to achieve sustained success over the course of the seven-month regular season.
“There’s not as much pressure on us this preseason as there was last year,” Besler told 810 WHB. “In 2019 we were under a crazy time restraint because we were trying to get up to speed as quickly as possible with all of those early (Concacaf Champions League) games against teams from Mexico that had already started their seasons.
“Everyone involved pushed themselves as far as we could go, and looking back we did a really good job of that because we did well in the Champions League. It was a great experience for us to be able to do that and start off so well, but we probably paid the price later on in the season because we really ran out of gas mentally and physically.”
Besler is part of a grizzled veteran core that also includes players like Zusi, Roger Espinoza, Tim Melia and Ilie Sanchez. But Sporting has also welcomed a crop of enticing fresh faces such as Mexican striker Alan Pulido, Israeli midfielder Gadi Kinda and center backs Roberto Puncec and Winston Reid. With these newcomers joining an already experienced roster, Besler thinks cohesion will come relatively quickly.
“We’ve added new guys on every line, so there’s a lot of excitement within our group,” he said. “I think the fans also have the right to be excited. Every team is like that, though—there’s some excitement, there’s some hype, but there’s also some questions about the roles guys will play and what types of players they will be. It’s always one of the exciting things about the new season and having new players. I look forward to seeing how these new guys will help our team and how they perform in the first real game.”
Listen to the full podcast below.
Saturday's Western Conference battle will mark the first time ever that Sporting has kicked off an MLS season in the month of February, giving eager fans an early dose of MLS action as opening weekend commences across the United States and Canada.
Supporters can catch the game live at 9:30 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO, including 30 minutes of pre-match and post-match coverage with Bukaty, Peterson and touchline reporter Carter Augustine on the call. Fans can also listen locally on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish).