Approaching the tournament, Jurgen Klinsmann made it very clear he trusted Matt Besler on his back line. Besler was deployed as both a center back and an outside back in the tune-up friendlies and showed some surprising versatility. He was bringing a veteran presence and World Cup experience to the table. Although he wasn’t necessarily in the best form for his club, Klinsmann brought him along as low-risk option off the bench who wouldn’t be afraid of any big names in this tournament.
Besler started two matches and went the distance in each of them. Here is a quick look at his numbers:
Games Played: 2
Jurgen called on him in the Ecuador match to play left back after DeAndre Yedlin was suspended. Sacrificing some offensive potency, he needed a defender he could trust against a pacey and dangerous Antonio Valencia. Besler kept him in check until the Manchester United man was sent off with a red card. The majority of the bigger chances for Ecuador came from the other side of the field and Matt had some key interceptions. It wasn’t expected out of him, but his biggest moment of the tournament was helping create the winning goal. He curled an absolutely beautiful ball right at the top of the six yard box that Zardes headed over to Dempsey, and then got it back for the easy finish.
Besler also got the start at center back next to Geoff Cameron for the third place match against Colombia. The two have paired up many times and have a good understanding of each other. Besler did pretty well in keeping the shape of the back line against a very dangerous attacking front.
Another positive that must be mentioned is that Matt stayed calm and remained unfazed when things got crazy. Both matches he played had red cards for both teams and Matt was there to calm things down and make sure everyone kept a level head.
Besler avoided any embarrassing moments and was never caught out of position too bad (things that has been known to happen). But at times his lack of pace was exposed when he was forced to play on the outside. Matt is good at using his body and helping anchor a back line, but can be burned every now and then when he steps up in risky situations. He is very physical and will lunge in to get close and use his body. But as an outside back he faces quick wingers who can get around him with any bit of cleverness.
Copa Grade - B+
Matt Besler will always give the national team a smart defender who will know his role and will do whatever the job requires. He has great instincts and he positions himself well. He is low-risk, but probably won’t wow anybody at this point. He wasn’t brought along to score goals on set pieces, or make overlapping runs if used as an outside back. He was brought along purely for defensive reinforcement and his experience in big games, against big teams. That being said, Besler did his job in his two matches and he did it very well.
Matt returned to Sporting KC and immediately started a U.S. Open Cup loss. Then he was given a break to start the weekend but came on as a substitute to score a stoppage-time winner against Columbus Crew SC. No that is not a typo, he scored a goal. He has actually not played his best for SKC this season and may be the third best center back on the team. But he is the captain and after a solid Copa America and the match-winner on the weekend, he can start to gain some confidence. Kansas City will need him to be in top form as they make a late push in MLS and begin CONCACAF Champion’s League play soon. He'll likely continue to be a solid role player under the watch of Jurgen Klinsmann.