The date: March 26, 2013. The venue: Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, Mexico. The match: U.S. Men’s National Team’s third World Cup qualifier of the Hex.

Matt Besler may have been the reigning MLS Defensive Player of the Year, but it wasn’t until the Sporting KC central defender stepped out onto the vaunted Azteca field as a starter that he felt he belonged on the pitch. It was his first start in a World Cup Qualifier for the stars and stripes, and he helped the team earn just their second point at the Azteca. Ever.

“When I got onto the field, I felt like I belonged and I felt like I could impact the game,” Besler told former USMNT stars John Harkes and Tony Meola on SiriusXM FC’s Counter Attack. “From that moment on, I’ve always felt comfortable and confident.”

Belser, who is likely to start for Jurgen Klinsmann next summer in the World Cup, is also headed to the Major League Soccer playoffs with SKC. His club can still win the Supporter’s Shield — given to the team with the best regular season record — with a win and a New York Red Bulls loss in this weekend’s finale.

“You’re sitting there, and you’re thinking about way back in May or April, and you’re thinking, ‘Gosh, if we didn’t drop those points or if we just would’ve scored here instead of hit the post, we’d be sitting three points clear of the Supporter’s Shield,’” Besler said. “The last five,six games, we’ve been extremely difficult to play against. Going into the playoffs, that’s the most important thing, we’ve really grinded out results and we’ve just found a way to win.”

On top of that, there’s a mid-week CONCACAF Champions League match to worry about. SKC needs only a draw at home against Honduras’ CD Olimpia Wednesday night to advance to next year’s knockout stage of the CCL. It’s a priority for the team, stemming from the desire of their head coach, Peter Vermes.

“Our focus is 100 percent right now on Champions League,” Besler said. “It’s something we’ve worked so hard to get into the last three or four years with our core group of players.”

SKC finishes up its MLS season against the Philadelphia Union — a team that needs a win for a shot at the playoffs — on Saturday.

Catch the MLS Playoffs on SiriusXM FC, channel 94, hear from the top players and managers in the sport on Counter Attack, weekdays at 5 pm ET, and follow SiriusXM FC on Twitter, your American and Canadian home for the world’s best sport.

Powered by WordPress.com VIP