Sporting Kansas City center back Matt Besler made his customary appearance on Sports Radio 810 WHB ahead of tonight’s pivotal road match against FC Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium.
Speaking with Border Patrol hosts Nate Bukaty and Steven St. John, Besler will be part of a Sporting Kansas City squad that can clinch a berth in the 2020 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs tonight with a win or a draw. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. CT with live coverage on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest, FOX Sports GO and Sports Radio 810 WHB.
Manager Peter Vermes’ men would also reclaim first place in the West with a victory after Seattle ascended to the top spot with a win at Vancouver last night. Sporting are enjoying a strong run of form, boasting a 4-1-1 record in their last six games, and Besler said that striker Alan Pulido has been instrumental in the club’s success.
Pulido joined Sporting on a club-record transfer fee ahead of the 2020 campaign and leads the side with seven goals in all competitions. Most recently, he was an MLS Player of the Week nominee after scoring in a 4-0 home win over the Colorado Rapids on Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park.
“He fits in very, very well with our team,” Besler said of Pulido. “He’s come in and his attitude has been unbelievable. You wouldn’t ever guess that he’s one of the most popular and famous Mexican soccer players when you talk to him. He’s very down to earth, he’s humble and he wants to be here.
“When he’s back home in Mexico, he can’t even go outside and go to the grocery store or go eat without being bombarded by media and fans and questions and all of that stuff. The culture over there is so much more intense surrounding soccer. Coming here, it’s obviously a little different and maybe a breath of fresh air for him. It certainly looks like he’s enjoying himself.
“He’s obviously enjoying himself on the field because he’s an amazing player and he’s making a huge difference for us. Off the field, too, he’s really enjoying his time so far here in Kansas City.”
Indeed, Pulido has pieced together one of the best campaigns among MLS newcomers. His 10 combined goals and primary assists are the most among first-year MLS players and the most among players with 10 or fewer regular season starts in 2020. And while the 29-year-old Mexican has shown his quality on the pitch, his qualities as a teammate have been just as evident.
“He wants to be a part of the team. He’s our highest-paid player, but he doesn’t act like that,” Besler said. “He wants to be a part of the group and wants to work hard. That’s great to see, especially from a high-profile player like that.
“On the field, he’s so smart. He has a great feel for the game. He’s a little bit different than a target striker. Normally you think of a big, imposing presence who always wants to be highest up the field, go on breakaways and try to get in behind for long balls.
“Alan is actually the opposite of that. He is our target striker, but he actually likes to check back towards the ball. That creates a lot of problems for other teams…when he finds the soft spots and pockets between the midfield and defense. He’s got this knack for finding these soft areas where it forces teams to make tough decisions, and we’ve been able to find him in those spots. And once we find him, from there his natural talent just takes over.”