I had the chance to speak with Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler by phone on Friday following his arrival in Orlando, Fla., for the final leg of Sporting KC's preseason preparations. The three Disney Pro Soccer Classic games will be Besler's first and only preseason minutes for Sporting following his time with the United States national team in January and World Cup qualifying match against Honduras on Wednesday.
From our conversation came this story on Besler, and what made his decision to stay in Kansas City this offseason despite being a free agent a relatively easy one. If you haven't done already, read that story now.
Left over were quite a few quotes from my conversation with Besler about a whole slew of things from the U.S. national team setup, stepping on the field as a U.S. player, qualifying for the World Cup in 2014, and the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
On being a free agent, and why he chose to stay in Kansas City: - only a snippet of the full quote from this story
"Going through the whole process, I knew I wanted to try to stay with Sporting. That's honestly where I started. As I was looking through my options, I always had that in the back of my mind, and I told myself that it has to be an extremely good situation for me to consider leaving Sporting Kansas City."
On how Sporting KC are, in some instances, already functioning on the same levels as the national team:
"The cool thing about [the national team camp] was I realized we're already doing a lot of similar stuff now. Two or three years ago, all of the national team stuff would be totally new, but since we brought in [strength, training and conditioning coach] Mateus Manoel, he takes care of the nutrition part, and the correctives.
"It was actually very cool to see that some of the guys on the national team camp, it was completely new for them, but for me, I've already been doing it for a year-and-a-half since Mateus got here."
On stepping onto the field in a U.S. jersey:
"It felt amazing. It was something I put a lot of work into to get that chance, but right in the moment, I felt comfortable. I felt very confident after going through the camp for three weeks. It made me realize that I definitely belong."
On his personal and team goals for the 2013 season:
"With the national team, I got my first taste this offseason with the January camp, Canada friendly, and Honduras World Cup qualifier. But, now I want more. My personal goal for this next year is to cement myself into the roster and become a starter. I gained a lot of confidence through my experiences with the team and I truly believe I can play at the International level."
Team goals: "I hope everyone on our team realizes how hard it is to be considered the best defense in the league, and it's going to be even harder to do it again. I'll have to look at the stats, but no team has allowed the fewest goals in consecutive years, so that's going to be the goal for 2013.
"These are way more important than individual goals. Our team philosophy is "individual success comes from team success", and I'm a true believer in this. I would like to keep our team goals within the team, but as a defensive unit, I want us to give up the fewest goals again this year. It was a nice accomplishment last season, and one of the many reasons we were successful. But, this year is going to be even harder. We now have a reputation and a target on our backs. I want to challenge everyone to do it again this year, to give up the fewest goals. I'm not sure if a team has ever done it two consecutive years in a row."
On what you learn from playing an away World Cup qualifier in CONCACAF:
"It's tough. It's going to be extremely difficult. There's going to be no easy games. In years past, there's been those one or two teams that you feel pretty comfortable about going in and getting a win, but in CONCACAF the level has gotten so much better.
"I think we learned a tough lesson in Honduras that if we don't come to play, if we don't come with the right mentality and the right work ethic, we're not going to win a game. Hopefully everyone realizes that, and realizes how important doing that is."
On playing in July's Gold Cup, and possibly missing a month of Sporting KC games:
"I'd like to be involved in everything. It would be a bummer to miss a Champions League game, but at the same time, the Gold Cup would be an awesome experience. I don't know what my schedule is going to be like.
"I know right now from the looks of it, I'm on the fringe of the first 'A-group,' and hopefully that means I would definitely be involved in the second group for the Gold Cup. Right now, in my position, I feel like I'm right in the middle of both. I pretty much just have to be prepared for everything and take it as it comes."