Matt Besler reflects on Sporting KC’s MLS exit; enjoying USA’s trip to London

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LONDON — 10 days after his 2014 Major League Soccer season ended with Sporting Kansas City, Matt Besler is in England training at Fulham’s Motspur Park with the U.S. national team.

When speaking to ProSoccerTalk on Monday, Besler was understandably disappointed that the reigning MLS Cup champions got knocked out of the playoffs in the knockout round to the New York Red Bulls and were unable to defend their crown.

[ RELATED: USA to play Colombia ]

Under the floodlights on a chilly evening in south west London, Besler summed up his emotions after Sporting’s exit from the playoffs.

“We are all disappointed that we are not still playing,” Besler said. “It is certainly the expectation that we have as a team now. So any time we don’t win a championship we are disappointed. I think there’s a lot to be proud of, I know that the guys left everything they had on the field. We had a lot of obstacles this year that we weren’t quite able to overcome. That’s how it goes. You have to learn, move on and come back stronger for next season.”

After a stuttering second half to the MLS season for Peter Vermes’ men (losing seven of their final 10 matches) they stumbled into the postseason and looked jaded as many pointed to both Besler and Graham Zusi — two of Sporting’s most influential players — having no rest after the USA’s World Cup campaign in Brazil.

Besler admitted that he wasn’t in his best physical condition after a grueling World Cup campaign then returning to play out the rest of the season in MLS, but insisted that he didn’t want to use it as an excuse for failing to advance past the first round of the playoffs.

“Physically it was tough… it was tough. I’ve been asked that question [of his fitness] a lot,” Besler said. “I feel like when I say that I’m being truthful but it comes out as an excuse. I don’t want it to come out that way. It is every players dream to be playing in World Cups and then coming back to your club team. I will say that the pre-World Cup camp was the toughest camp of my entire life. We were doing three-a-days for a month up until the World Cup.”

It is well known that following his stellar performances in the World Cup for the USA, Besler had plenty of options to move to England but chose to remain at Sporting and sign a new long-term deal for his hometown club alongside his good friend and teammate Zusi. Just because he didn’t sign for Fulham, or a number of other English teams, that doesn’t mean the KC native is not enjoying his time in England’s capital.

“Today was great, being on the training ground. It’s a first-class facility,” Besler said. “I’m just excited to be over here and experience the culture of all the football matches going on. The second you walk around town you can feel the energy they have and their passion for football.”

ProSoccerTalk will be with the USA in London all week ahead of their game against Colombia at Craven Cottage on Friday. Stay in touch with the latest news, here.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic says goodbye to the LA Galaxy

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has bid adieu to Major League Soccer, thanking the LA Galaxy for “making me feel alive again.”

The Swedish superstar averaged nearly a goal per game with the Galaxy, and was rumored to be in line for another two years at the club.

[ MORE: Columbus acquires Nagbe ]

Perhaps those reports, and maybe AC Milan’s struggles to score goals, have made more suitors come forward. Time will tell.

The Galaxy said the decision was a “mutual parting of ways” and thanked the player for his work both on and off the pitch.

From LAGalaxy.com:

“We would like to thank Zlatan for his contributions to the LA Galaxy and Major League Soccer,” said LA Galaxy President Chris Klein. “Since his arrival in 2018, Zlatan has positively influenced the sport of soccer in Los Angeles. We are grateful for his work ethic and passion. We thank Zlatan for his professionalism and immeasurable impact on the Los Angeles community and the soccer community in North America as a whole.”

Zlatan’s full thoughts, below, were a bit more Zlatanny.

Klein will have his hands full in replacing Ibrahimovic, who scored 52 times in 53 matches, but the Galaxy have always managed to bring in big names.

Getting a star playmaker is even more important as El Trafico rivals LAFC have rewritten the MLS record book and snared plenty of attention in California and across the league.

Columbus acquires Nagbe from Atlanta for $1M in allocation

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Darlington Nagbe is headed for a reunion with old boss Caleb Porter.

Columbus has sent over $1 million in allocation money to Atlanta United in order to claim the influential midfielder.

[ MORE: Top 25 players in USMNT pool ]

Porter coached Nagbe at the University of Akron and the Portland Timbers, and has 25 USMNT caps but has turned down Gregg Berhalter’s requests for service.

Nagbe made 46 appearances across all competitions for the Five Stripes this season, scoring twice with five assists. He has 313 matches played between Portland and Atlanta.

From MLSSoccer.com:

“Darlington Nagbe is a proven winner and the type of player who can be a difference-maker in our team,” Crew SC president and GM Tim Bezbatchenko said in a statement. “In addition to his skill set, we believe that Darlington is someone whose character and values fit well within our organization. As we stated heading into this offseason, we continue to look both domestically and internationally for players that will make our team better, and we believe Darlington is an important part of those efforts.”

It’s a bold statement from Columbus, who had a reputation for getting the most of its talent under Berhalter but faded under Porter after a hot start. The Crew began 2019 with a 4-1-1 record but lost 13 of its next 15 matches.

Of course, being MLS, the Crew then only lost 2 of their final 13 matches. Shoulder shrug emoji.

NYCFC teen agrees move to Borussia Monchengladbach

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New York City FC’s impressive academy has earned one of the bigger transfer market payoffs in MLS Homegrown history, and will join the current Bundesliga leaders after next season.

Joe Scally, 16, is headed to Borussia Monchengladbach on a $2 million transfer with a sell-on clause, and will spend the 2020 MLS season with his boyhood club. Scally has played in the Open Cup, but has not debuted in an MLS match.

[ MORE: Top 25 players in USMNT pool ]

The $2 million figure is on the edge of Top 30 for departing MLS players, according to Transfermarkt, just behind Cyle Larin’s move from Orlando City to Besiktas.

Scally appeared 11 times for the U.S. U-17 national team, going 90 minutes in all three matches and assisting on the lone American goal at the World Cup in Brazil.

From Borussia.de:

“Joe Scally is a top American talent who we have been following for a long time. We see a lot of potential in Joe and we are looking forward to him joining up with us in January 2021. Until then, we will work together with New York City FC to prepare him for his move to Germany,” said Borussia’s sporting director, Max Eberl.

Not sure just how long they could’ve been following a 16-year-old, but we digress.

Scally will join U-17 teammates Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund) and Maximilian Dietz (Freiburg) on the books at a Bundesliga club. Recent U-17 call-ups Pablo Soares (Gladbach) and Noah Jones (RB Leipzig) are also with clubs in Germany’s top flight.

Last month, NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna told me that Scally was the perfect example of a young player trusting a club’s preference of changing his position.

“The perfect example is Joe Scally on the U-17 World Cup team. He came to us from a club in Long Island as an athletic box-to-box midfielder. He was very strong, but we saw him as an outside back. The lesson that we now we share that with our players, don’t get upset if you move to a position, but Joe Scally understood, never complained, he played wherever he was told to do, and now he’s a right back now, 16 years old going to the World Cup after being in our academy for two and a half years.”

Looks like it’s worked out.

Spanish court to decide fate of Spanish league game in USA

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MADRID (AP) A Spanish court will decide whether the Spanish league will be allowed to play the Villarreal-Atletico Madrid game in the United States next month.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule

A court hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Madrid to hear arguments from the league and the Spanish soccer federation, which is against taking the regular-season match abroad.

The league has called for an injunction to force the federation to give its approval. It accuses the local soccer body of unfair competition.

The league also needs the approval of UEFA and American soccer bodies to be able to play the match, which is scheduled for Dec. 6 in Miami.

The commercial court hearing the case is expected to issue a ruling within the next few days.

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