In his weekly appearance on Sports Radio 810 WHB this morning with Border Patrol hosts Steven St. John, Todd Leabo and Jake Gutierrez, Sporting Kansas City captain Matt Besler provided an insightful preview of Friday's showdown with rivals Minnesota United FC.
The highly anticipated showdown marks the resumption of the MLS regular season for both clubs, with first-place Sporting (4-1-0, 12 points) and second-place Minnesota (3-0-2, 11 points) battling for top spot in the Western Conference straight out of the gates. The contest will air live on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus, FOX Sports GO and Sports Radio 810 WHB with kickoff at 6:30 p.m. CT.
Neither team has played since the conclusion of the MLS is Back Tournament at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
With a busy slate of matches on the horizon, Besler said recent training sessions at Compass Minerals National Performance Center have been intense. The team will play 18 more league matches between now and Decision Day on Nov. 8, with the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs to follow from Nov. 20 to Dec. 12.
"Now is the fun part. These last three weeks were pretty tough, but now we get to go and play games and compete against somebody else," Besler said. "The fact that we're playing in home markets and in home stadiums, it's another step forward. It feels like we're getting a little bit closer to the normal feeling of a regular season game. All of that is really exciting."
Friday's clash will serve as a rematch of the Group D opener between the sides in the MLS is Back Tournament on July 12. Sporting dominated for extended periods of the game and took a 1-0 lead into second-half stoppage time behind Khiry Shelton's goal, but the Loons struck in the 92nd and 97th minutes to secure an unlikely 2-1 victory. It remains Sporting's lone blemish on its regular season ledger.
"Minnesota is a team we know well because we play them at least a few times a year and they're a regional rival for us," Besler said. "They've taken some confidence out of the MLS is Back Tournament just like us. It's a very even matchup."
With MLS action returning to home markets, Besler shared details on Sporting's travel plans for road matches moving forward. The team will take a charter flight to the opposing team's city on matchday, rest at a hotel, bus to the stadium for the match, and then return to Kansas City that same night via charter. These travel measures will be adopted across the league with the health and safety of players highly prioritized.
Besler also indicated that Sporting will exercise its depth in the weeks to come, as matches will be coming thick and fast.
"There has been a ton of squad rotation in training—probably more than I've ever seen—and I think that's probably by design," Besler said. "When you look at the schedule and see how many games we're playing in a short period of time, there's going to have to be some rotation. There will have to be some changes in the lineup game-to-game. That's been really good for our group and for every player involved. Overall, I think you're going to be seeing the majority of the roster coming up in the next several games."