Sporting KC defender Matt Besler eyes another winning chapter as unprecedented 2020 season unfolds

It’s easy to see why Matt Besler has become an unmistakable face of Sporting Kansas City over the last decade.

A proud Kansas Citian captaining his hometown club. A winner on the field with an MLS Cup and three Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles to boot. A leader off the field who gives back to the community. A longtime fixture for the United States Men’s National Team and the only Kansan to compete in the FIFA World Cup.

Indeed, when players, coaches, fans and pundits alike reflect on Sporting Kansas City’s meteoric rise from MLS afterthought to perennial title contender in the 2010s, Besler will surface as one of the primary contributors during a period of trophy-filled glory.

As Besler’s 12th MLS season continues to unfold, the center back will have the opportunity to add yet another winning chapter to his storybook career. From Blue Valley West High School to Notre Dame to Sporting—joining the club as a 2009 MLS SuperDraft selection alongside Graham Zusi—Besler has certainly made the most of his journey thus far.

There’s legitimate reason to believe it could get even better in 2020—even amidst the unprecedented and unpredictable climate that Major League Soccer finds itself in as league play resumes in home markets later this month after a successful MLS is Back Tournament in the Orlando bubble.

For starters, Manager Peter Vermes’ men occupy first place in the Western Conference with 12 points and a 4-1-0 record. That’s the third-best five-game start to a season in club history. Sporting has experienced early success on both sides of the ball, ranking second in MLS with 13 goals while also posting two shutouts and conceding just five times over the course of 450 minutes.

As for Besler specifically, his four appearances this season represent a small sample size but nonetheless indicate that—at the age of 33—the defender is poised to play an integral role in Sporting’s push for silverware. In addition to helping Sporting secure wins in three of his four starts, Besler has racked up a team-best 14 clearances and made seven interceptions, second only to Ilie Sanchez. He leads MLS with 62 completed passes per game and boasts a passing accuracy of 85.8%, almost 5% above the league average.

Like each of his teammates, Besler will only be concerned with the stat that matters most: wins. And over the last 10 MLS seasons, no player has amassed more victories than—you guessed it—Matt Besler. As a defender, he will also have a vested interest in keeping clean sheets. As it turns out, no player over the last 10 MLS seasons has contributed to more shutouts than—you guessed it—Matt Besler.

MATT BESLER: MLS TOTALS OVER LAST 10 REGULAR SEASONS
LEAGUE RANK IN PARENTHESIS

  • 116 wins (1st)
  • 83 shutout contributions (1st)
  • 609 interceptions (2nd)
  • 1,438 clearances (2nd)
  • 244 starts (4th)
  • 21,779 minutes (4th)

This statistical log, provided by Opta, supports the notion that Besler has been among the most effective defenders over the last decade. Combine that resumé with his impressive collection of medals at the club and international level, and the picture becomes increasingly clear: Besler’s been pretty darn good at his job for a long time.

Looking ahead, Besler and Sporting are about to hit the ground running after a brief respite following the MLS is Back Tournament. The club is slated to play an additional 18 league matches between Aug. 21 and Nov. 8 to round out a 23-game regular season.

If Besler continues to get minutes, he stands a great chance at eclipsing 300 regular season appearances for the club and becoming the sixth player in league history to hit the milestone with a single team. He is a dozen regular season matches away from reaching that landmark.

For those keeping track at home, Besler is Sporting’s all-time leader in appearances (342), starts (332) and minutes played (29,900) across all competitions. Zusi, his longtime teammate and close friend, is close behind in second for all three categories.

Sporting released the schedule for its next six MLS fixtures on Saturday. The Western Conference leaders will visit second-place Minnesota United FC on Aug. 21 before hosting Houston on Aug. 25 in the first game back at Children’s Mercy Park since Sporting thrashed the Dynamo 4-0 on March 7.

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