US national team, World Cup player profile: Matt Besler

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What a year it has been for Besler. First he emerged as one of the USA’s heroes vs. Mexico away in a pivotal World Cup qualifying draw, then he won MLS Cup with his hometown team Sporting Kansas City. This season he was named SKC’s captain and now he is heading to the World Cup as the lynchpin of the USA’s defense.

Profiles of every USMNT player, right here

He has to be pinching himself but his meteoric rise is thanks to stunning displays of power, pace, the ability to read the ball and his knack of perfect positioning. He has a deceptive pace about him which compliments his center back partners well. A key man for the USMNT in Brazil this summer, no doubt.

Full name: Matt Besler

Age: 27

Hometown: Overland Park, Kansas

Position: Central defender

Caps/goals: 15 caps, 0 goals

Club: Sporting Kansas City

Best moment in a U.S. shirt: One display sticks out like a sore thumb. Besler and his central defensive partner Omar Gonzalez both had just a few caps to their name when the USA traveled to the Estadio Azteca to play Mexico in a crucial World Cup qualifier. They were both thrown in at the deep end at center back and they excelled. Besler blocked every single ball that came his way and put his body on the line for the cause. He managed to keep Javier Hernandez quite and the U.S. took home a valuable 0-0 draw en-route to qualifying for Brazil 2014. That game was when you knew Besler would be a mainstay for the U.S. national team.

Starter or squad player at World Cup? One man knows they will definitely be starting every game at the heart of the USA’s defense this summer. That’s Besler. His superb displays as a no-nonsense center back who can also play from the back means he is the main man in defense for Jurgen Klinsmann. He has a tremendous spring, a great turn of pace and leads by example. Heading to his first-ever World Cup with just 15 caps to his name, if Besler plays to his potential then he could well be the USA’s star man.

USMNT AT HALF: Dempsey, Gomez trade goals in chippy first half

AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco
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Christian Pulisic and Clint Dempsey combined for another goal, and the USMNT leads Panama 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier Tuesday in Panama City.

A physical, chippy first half didn’t see many clear cut chances and was 0-0 after 38. minutes.

[ STREAM: Live on Telemundo Deportes ]

The first 10 minutes were a bit frenetic, with the U.S. focused on adventurous first touch passes when it managed to earn the ball from Panama.

That feel wasn’t aided by the officiating, as Cesar Ramos was inconsistent in a very physical opening half-hour.

Then, the breakthrough. Dempsey moved to within a goal of Landon donovan’s all-time mark thanks to Pulisic, who cooked Felipe Baloy and held off Roman Torres before laying off to the veteran. 1-0, 39′.

The lead lasted all of three minutes, as Gomez pounced on a loose ball with the Yanks’ back line at sixes and sevens off a long throw-in. Gomez turned off Jermaine Jones and lost Villafana to bury his chance behind Howard. 1-1, 44′.

STREAM LIVE: USMNT looks for 3 more points in Panama

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
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The United States looks to finish the international break in an automatic qualifier spot in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table when it faces Panama in Panama City at 10:05 p.m. EDT Tuesday.

A lot of the faces are the same from the 6-0 demolition of Honduras in California on Friday, though John Brooks and Sebastian Lletget are out with injury.

Jermaine Jones replaces Lletget while Tim Ream moves into the fray for Brooks. Geoff Cameron played Friday’s match with a minor injury, and moves out of the XI for Graham Zusi.

LINEUP

USMNT: Howard; Villafana, Gonzalez, Ream, Zusi; Bradley, Jones, Nagbe; Pulisic, Dempsey, Altidore

Subs: Bingham, Rimando; Beasley, Besler, Camron, Zimmerman; Acosta, Arriola, Bedoya, Kljestan, McCarty, Pulisic; Wondolowski

Reyes header gives Mexico three points in T&T (video)

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Diego Reyes’ 58th minute header off a corner kick gave Mexico a lead it wouldn’t give up in a 1-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago at Hasely Crawford Stadium in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

The win gives Mexico a table-topping 10 points, seven ahead of last-place T&T.

[ MORE: Honduras 1-1 Costa Rica ]

The Soca Warriors were in fine, stingy form early, and looked to have gone ahead on the counterattack when Joevin Jones belted a left-footer into the Mexico goal.

The linesman, however, ruled that Jones was offside. He almost certainly was not, as Mexico’s supreme luck in CONCACAF play continued for at least one night.

Hector Herrera hammered a shot off the far goal post early in the second half as Mexico attempted to grab control.

T&T goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams jammed Miguel Layun’s shot over the bar moments before the breakthrough from Reyes.

Williams then saved Javier Hernandez’s 64th minute offering as Mexico looked to put three points to bed.

Joevin Jones won a free kick in the 76th minute that gave a brief moment of light to T&T’s hopes, but Jones hit the wall and Mexico cleared the ball.

Honduras holds Costa Rica 1-1

AP Photo/Moises Castillo
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Honduras did the United States a favor by taking a point from visiting Costa Rica in Tuesday’s CONCACAF World Cup qualifier in San Pedro Sula.

Anthony Lozano pushed a 35th minute chance past an indecisive Keylor Navas, as Los Catrachos set the stage for a hopeful three points.

[ STREAM: T&T-Mexico, Panama-USMNT ]

Vancouver Whitecaps center back Kendall Waston’s haphazard defending helped allow the goal, but he scored off a late Costa Rica corner kick to ensure Costa Rica will finish the international break in second place.

With four points, Honduras moves ahead of Trinidad and Tobago and the United States before both sides play Tuesday.

Costa Rica beat the U.S. 4-0 in 2016, while the Yanks battered Honduras 6-0 on Friday.