Besler head shot

Three good questions for: Sporting Kansas City center back Matt Besler

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HOUSTON – “Sporting Kansas City center back Matt Besler” may soon be known as “Sporting Kansas City and U.S. international center back Matt Besler.”

Besler has a good chance of lining up next to Omar Gonzalez in the middle of the U.S. defense tonight against Canada, which would represent a first U.S. cap for the 25-year-old hometown hero around Kansas City.

A good night at BBVA could certainly elevate his chances of landing a Gold Cup spot this summer and … well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Frankly, it should be a relatively smooth night, seeing as Canada’s program is in the dumps for the time being, desperate to build its way out. The U.S. is better, playing on home soil and better rested; Canada fell to Denmark three nights ago, 4-0.

Even if there isn’t too terribly much to deal with in Houston tonight, it’s been a good camp for Besler, with good reports from staff on his sessions over the last three weeks.

You got a few sessions under Jurgen Klinsmann last year just before a match with Mexico, but this was your first extended camp. Did anything surprise you?

To be honest, not really. I got called into little taste of it [before], so this was my first extended look. I talked to [Sporting KC teammate] Graham Zusi a lot about this camp, about what to expect, so I came in pretty prepared. … I asked him about the fitness drills we would be doing, what fitness drills Jurgen likes to run, that all just made me more comfortable.”

There must have been a tricky balance. You want to be the “new” guy, but it’s a center back’s job to direct the back line and midfielders. How did you approach that balance?

I wanted to come in and make my name and make my mark, but at the same time, I wanted to do it within the team, you know? You don’t want to be the guy who comes in and is totally an individual and yelling at his teammates all the time. There is definitely a time and place for that, especially as center back where you need to direct somebody or tell someone to do something. I think I’ve had a good mix of that, being the new guy and earning my way, but also trying to be a leader.”

How important was it for everyone in camp to have this match as a “carrot” at the  end of long stick of fitness prep?

It’s huge. We’ve been battling against each other for 21 straights day and we get to play someone else now, so we’re all looking forward to it.”

Premier League AT HALF: Arsenal fights back, Hull City on top

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal (L) and Francis Coquelin of Arsenal (R) celebrate after Theo Walcott of Arsenal (not pictured) scored Arsenals first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium on December 10, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Goals and controversial penalty decisions are a big part of Saturday morning’s quartet of Premier League matches, all of which are at the break.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

Arsenal 1-1 Stoke City

Joe Allen took an elbow from Granit Xhaka inside the 18, and Lee Mason awarded a PK that Charlie Adam converted to give the visitors an early lead. But Theo Walcott scored his 100th goal as a Gunner off a classy Hector Bellerin cross to make it 1-1 before the break.

Burnley 2-1 Bournemouth

The Cherries will have to dig out of another hole this week, and it all began with Jeff Hendrick‘s phenomenal opener. Fellow Irishman Steven Ward scored an economical to goal to double the lead.

But Ryan Fraser continued his fine December with an assist on Benik Afobe‘s goal before halftime.

Hull City 1-0 Crystal Palace

Robert Snodgrass drew a penalty with a pretty easy grass grab, and the Tigers have a

Swansea City 0-0 Sunderland

Not much cooking at the Liberty Stadium.

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Koeman: “Nervous” Everton has a problem after another loss

WATFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Ronald Koeman manager of Everton arrives prior to the Premier League match between Watford and Everton at Vicarage Road on December 10, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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One win in 10 for Ronald Koeman‘s Everton has the Dutchman on the hot seat.

Koeman seems to be clawing for air after the Toffees’ latest setback, a 3-2 loss at Watford.

The loss puts the Hornets ahead of Everton on the PL table, and — while unlikely — it’s a mathematical possibility that the Toffees could be a bottom half team by the end of the weekend.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

That’s a brutal development for a club expected to challenge for a European place this season.

Here’s Koeman:

“I see a lot of similar problems in the team. The team is too much reactive. Of course it’s maybe a lack of confidence, but if you start the game well, 1-0 up, you need a bigger belief in the team and not going back and defending, and nervous, and not enough ball possession. In my opinion that’s a problem.”

A big problem with that? It can be put down to the manager. Is Koeman in trouble already?

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VIDEO: Hendrick scores incredible volley from distance

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Jeff Hendrick, take a bow.

Burnley’s Republic of Ireland international midfielder pulled off a stunning piece of skill on Saturday to put the Clarets ahead against Bournemouth.

[ STREAM: Every PL game online ] 

A long ball forward was flicked on to Hendrick and he took a stunning first touch to tee himself and then settled himself before spanking a volley into the top corner.

Sensational goal from Burnley’s club-record signing.

Click play on the video above to watch it.

Messi’s latest goal dares you to count the touches (video)

PAMPLONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 10:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the La Liga match between CA Osasuna and FC Barcelona at Sadar stadium on December 10, 2016 in Pamplona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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There’s a danger in observing Lionel Messi on a week-by-week basis, and it has a lot to do with how he makes greatness look routine.

So while it’s easy to dismiss yet another mazy dribble through a defense, one of those “Frogger” style with calm-but-vicious cutbacks, try to consider everything that goes into Messi’s second goal against Osasuna early Saturday.

[ MORE: Watford 3-2 Everton ]

On first look, you might count 9 touches for Messi starting with his right-footed collection of the ball. But move to the slow motion replays, and recognize the truth: Often Messi is letting the ball do the work for him, essentially moving the duo closer to goal while he used his preferred left foot as a must-respect threat.

That he does it in such traffic and at full speed is incredible. It’s literally one of those goals in which a linguistic luminary like Ray Hudson would have trouble over-emphasizing the greatness.

Messi now has 11 La Liga goals in 12 matches, and 22 in 19 overall.

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