To Sporting Kansas City fans who have waited more than four months to see how striker Alan Pulido would build on his sizzling start to life in Major League Soccer, know this:
Matt Besler feels your pain.
Speaking on Friday ahead of Sporting's Sunday Group D opener against Minnesota United FC at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and the ESPN app, Besler couldn't wait until someone else got the difficult job of defending him again, a task he knows well from weeks of training since opening the season with a pair of victories and a pair of Pulido goals.
"I’m excited for our fans to be able to get to watch him again," Besler said. "I have the pleasure, the opportunity to see him up close and personal almost on a daily basis in training. He’s been great. It took him a few weeks in preseason to get acclimated and to kind of learn how we play, but that’s completely normal. He’s shown what he can do in the first two games, he does it in training. He’s a complete forward, he works hard, he’s able to hold the ball up, he’s able to combine with other players and then the most important thing, especially for a forward, is he scores goals.
"He deserves a lot of credit for how fast he’s acclimated to our team and I’m glad that we have on our team. But I also think it’s exciting for the club to have him, ... for the fans to be able to enjoy a player like that."
Pulido will also be facing a Minnesota backline that is without Besler's former center back partner, Ike Opara, out through the group stage with an undisclosed injury. Osvaldo Alonso is also an injury question in the holding midfield role.
Even so, Kansas City coach Peter Vermes doesn't think there's any reason Minnesota will be any less dangerous than they were when they matched his side by starting the season with a pair of victories.
"They have a solid team, I've said this before, from front to back," Vermes said. "Especially up the spine, they have a solid team defensively. They have a lot of improvisation going forward, and I still think it will be a very, very difficult game. It’s two of the probably more in-form teams to start the season off, so I feel comfortable saying that they’ll probably be in the same place they were when we left. I look forward to it being a good game."
Besler isn't so confident his own team's early form will play that much of a role in the restart in Orlando.
"It’s been too long, there’s been too much time in between the games," Besler said. "That’s unfortunate, because we were playing great the beginning of the season and we had a lot of momentum, so we’re going to have to start all over again. It’s up to us to create that momentum again."