Besler, Zusi on U.S. Men’s National Team roster to face Mexico

Matt Besler
Graham Zusi

Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler and midfielder Graham Zusi are among 22 players on the U.S. Men’s National Team roster for next week’s international friendly against Mexico, U.S. Soccer announced.

Both players will be available for Sporting Kansas City’s match at the Colorado Rapids on Saturday before joining the U.S. Men’s National Team.

Besler, 27, has made 13 appearances for the United States since debuting in January 2013, including six FIFA World Cup qualifiers and all three knockout round games en route to the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup championship. He most recently appeared alongside Zusi in the United States 2-0 victory over Korea Republic last month and the U.S. is 9-1-2 with Besler in the starting lineup.

The Overland Park, Kan., native was named Sporting Kansas City’s captain prior to the 2014 season, his sixth as a professional after being selected eighth overall in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft out of Notre Dame. Besler has appeared in 138 MLS matches (including postseason) in his career, earning MLS Best XI (2012, 2013), MLS All-Star (2011, 2013) and MLS Defender of the Year (2012) honors.

“This is an important game for us,” Besler said. “Most guys are making cases for themselves to make the roster, but I think more important, as a team, we are trying to make a case for ourselves to learn how to play better with each other and get that chemistry. We are going there to win the game. Hopefully, every guy that gets called in comes with the right mentality.”

Zusi has earned 19 appearances for the United States Men’s National Team, including caps in each of the last three meetings with Mexico (2-0-1). He scored in the final two FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, highlighted by the game-winning goal against Jamaica at Sporting Park to secure a first place finish in the Hexagonal for the U.S. and the stoppage time goal in a 3-2 win at Panama that put Mexico in position to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Zusi has three goals and three assists in his international career.

Over six professional seasons, the 27-year-old playmaker has played in 135 MLS matches (including postseason) with 17 goals and 36 assists. Zusi recorded a career-high six goals and a team-best 12 assists in all competition in 2013 and was the top-rated midfielder in the MLS Castrol Index. The Maryland alum was an MLS MVP finalist in 2012 and nominee for Best MLS Player at the 2013 ESPYS to go along with MLS All-Star (2012, 2013) and MLS Best XI (2012, 2013) recognition.

“It’s one of our big rivals,” Zusi said. “It’s another big test before the World Cup so any opportunity where we can get out on the field together is an opportunity to get better as a team. I think we have done a great job of coming together as a team, knowing what we want to accomplish and how we want to accomplish it as a team and now it’s just fine-tuning.”

The No. 14-ranked United States Men’s National Team will play No. 20-ranked Mexico at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, April 2, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. The match will be shown live on ESPN, WatchESPN and UniMas with radio coverage available on the ESPN Deportes Radio Network.

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Sporting KC waives Gardner

Sporting Kansas City has waived defender Josh Gardner.

The 31-year-old appeared in nine MLS matches, three CONCACAF Champions League games and two U.S. Open Cup matches for Sporting Kansas City since joining the club in December 2012.

In seven MLS seasons, Gardner has played in 59 games (including postseason) with three goals and six assists.

With the departure of Gardner, and midfielder Peterson Joseph currently on the disabled list, Sporting Kansas City has one on-budget roster spot available.

Sporting Kansas City’s roster — the third youngest in Major League Soccer – has 28 players under contract.

Manager Peter Vermes has used 20 different players in MLS competition to date this year, tied for the most of any team through the first three weeks of the season.

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Sporting KC wins, 1-0, over San Jose

Dom Dwyer

Sporting Kansas City extended the team’s home winning streak against San Jose to eight straight with a 1-0 victory over the Earthquakes on Saturday in Major League Soccer action at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan.

Dom Dwyer converted a penalty kick in the 57th minute and the Sporting KC defense held its opponent to a single shot on goal for the second straight MLS match in Eric Kronberg’s second career MLS shutout.

Eric Kronberg

Playing the team’s fifth game in a 15-day stretch to open the 2014 season, Sporting Kansas City snapped the Earthquakes 12-game unbeaten streak in all competition.

In doing so, manager Peter Vermes recorded the 63rd regular season victory of his coaching career, tying him with Glynn Myernick and Peter Nowak for 15th most in MLS history.

Peter Vermes

San Jose’s only shot on goal of the game came in the fifth minute as Shaun Francis’ cross was re-directed on frame by Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi from 15 yards out and smothered by Eric Kronberg.

In the 18th minute, Sporting Kansas City was poised to take the lead only to see one shot cleared off the line and two others strike the left post in a matter of seconds.

in, Ike Opara’s header was flicked over Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch and saved on the goal line by Pierazzi. up effort.

Sporting Kansas City threatened again in the 25th minute with Benny Feilhaber finding Graham Zusi inside the penalty area.

Zusi’s first-time shot was struck well and forced a diving stop from Busch to keep the score level through halftime.

Opara, facing his former team for the first time, came close again in the 55th minute with a header off Zusi’s cross that was tipped over the bar by Busch.

The game-winning goal would come from the penalty spot after Steven Lenhart was whistled for a handball during a scramble inside the box.

Dom Dwyer calmly converted the penalty kick, sending Busch the wrong way for his first goal of the season and fourth in his MLS career (including postseason).

The Earthquakes’ best scoring opportunity of the match came in the 71st minute.

Chris Wondolowski was the first to Clarence Goodson’s header inside the Sporting KC penalty area and fired just wide. Wondolowski would have another look in the 83rd minute on a free kick from the top of the area, however the set piece carried over the crossbar.

With the clean sheet, Kronberg lowers his goals against average to 0.66 in MLS matches this season.

Sporting Kansas City will next face the Colorado Rapids (1-0-1) at 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 29, in Commerce City, Colo. The match will be shown live locally on KMCI-TV (Channel 38) and across the Midwest on the Sporting KC Television Network.

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