K.C. native Besler loses the match -- but wins the evening

BY foxsports • August 1, 2013

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Nuts, he knows. Nuts, he does well. When you're a professional soccer type, one of the better defenders on the planet, nuts is part of the deal, man.

But this?

Brother, this was straight loopy.

Sunday, Chicago. A Gold Cup, bright and beautiful, cradled in your arms.

Monday, Kansas City. Appearances. Training. More appearances.

Tuesday, more training. Yet more appearances. Fashion show.

Wednesday, even more appearances. Then 45 minutes and change chasing Francesco Totti around in front of your hometown fans.

Thursday? Nap.

"The craziest (96 hours) that I've ever experienced," Sporting Kansas City defender and Overland Park native Matt Besler cracked after his Major League Soccer All-Stars fell, 3-1, to AS Roma late Wednesday night at Sporting Park.

"I'm really excited to sleep in my own bed. I've been looking forward to it for, like, two-and-a-half weeks."

Hey, the Beez was tired. He looked it, at times, on the pitch. He absolutely looked it after the match, the MLS All-Stars' fourth defeat in five years to a primo European club in this event.

"The game didn't go our way," said Besler, who was a part of the U.S. men's national team's 1-0 win over Panama in the Gold Cup final to start the week. "But if you look at the whole week, the week as a whole, Kansas City was unbelievable."

The contest, well -- not so much.

AS Roma tossed the MLS All-Stars to the mat at the outset -- scoring 4 minutes in and 47 minutes in -- and never really let 'em back up again. Omar Gonzalez finally got the crowd favorites on the board with a nifty header a minute into second-half stoppage time, rising above the Roma defense to cap a set piece that was, alas, too little, too late.

In truth, the MLS side defended like strangers most of the evening -- which, to be fair, they pretty much were.

"To (All-Star) Tim Cahill, what I did say to him was, 'I would love to have a month to work with these guys, though,'" Peter Vermes, the Sporting KC and All-Stars coach, said after the tilt.

"(But) we didn't lose three points with Sporting, and neither did anyone else in the league."

Fair point. Although if you're counting, over two straight All-Star Games -- MLB's midsummer classic in 2012 and the MLS showcase this year -- over two straight summers in Kansas City, the "host" team has been outscored by a margin of 11-1. And yet, in both cases, the big winner wound up being Kansas City itself.

Bad game. Great show.

The visiting Italians made a point to mention it. New York forward Thierry Henry, one of the game's greatest strikers over the past 20 years, went out of his way to mention it.

"Oh, the whole week was great," the native Frenchman opined.

"The reception here in Kansas City, the stadium, the way in town when you were walking (around) ... the people, the love that we received was just amazing, to be honest."

Bad game. Great show.

Wednesday's attendance -- 21,175 -- was the largest in the history of Sporting Park, with the locals screaming at full throat until Roma took them out of the contest at the start of the first half and the start of the second. So for Besler, 26, who grew up here and graduated from Blue Valley West High School, it was possible to lose the game and still win the day.

"We didn't have a lot of free time. We really were booked, pretty much booked, all day long with appearances all day and all night. We bounced around different areas, and I tried to show them as much as I could.

"But this (stadium) alone impressed them enough. I didn't have to show them too much, because they saw the offices, the stadium, the training ground, and they were very impressed."

At halftime, MLS commissioner Don Garber raised eyebrows when he announced plans to expand the circuit to 24 clubs -- meaning four new additions -- by 2020. And he pointed to this town, this stadium, this ownership, this team, as to how an American soccer club could be done, and done right, regardless of the market.

When asked about the expansion buzz, Besler couldn't resist.

"Kansas City II," he cracked. "Start the rumors."

"Yeah, that's not happening," Vermes countered.

And with that, a room of cynical reporters broke into laughter. With the exception of the actual game itself, everybody seemed to be having a ball.

"I took a couple guys down to the Plaza," said Besler, who recently closed on a house in the area. "Actually, I showed a few of the guys Oklahoma Joe's."


"Not Henry, though. Not Henry. It was fun. It was a lot of fun."

Bad game. Great show.

"At the meals, training, before the game, everyone was talking about Kansas City," Besler said.

They were talking about it afterward, too, which is kind of nuts. The best kind, actually.

You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com

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