U.S. Soccer

Quote Sheet: Final Draw for 2016 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Jordan

U.S. Under-17 WNT head coach B.J. Snow

On being a part of the first FIFA Women’s World Cup to be staged in the Middle East:
“First of all, we are extremely honored and humbled to be participating in the first ever FIFA Women’s international tournament to be held in the Middle East.  This is a massive step for the development of women’s soccer across the world. While we compete on the field it is still important to keep in mind that we have a collective sense of responsibility to grow the game and hopefully this will have a massive impact on women’s soccer for many years to come.”   

On the quality of play expected at this fifth U-17 Women’s World Cup:
“The international women’s game has evolved at a frenetic pace over the course of the last few years and it is fair to say that the quality and sophistication at the U-17 level has mirrored that evolution. We fully expect that the tournament held this fall in Jordan will be the toughest yet at the youth level.  The number of quality teams in this year’s edition is phenomenal.”  

On the lead up to the tournament now that the groups are set:
“The World Cup Final Draw brings with it a sense of reality to all of those involved and our players are no different. They are dealing with all of these feelings and emotions for the first time and this is very important for their development. We try to keep things in perspective for them and make sure that we stay focused on the things we can control both individually and collectively. We have four months to prepare for the tournament but at the same time there is no finish line for these players. We are trying to instill them with the habits and skills needed to be able to compete for this country for years to come.”   

On the USA’s draw for Group D which included Paraguay, Ghana and Japan:
“We feel that our group will be a tremendous challenge for us. There are three very distinct teams in our group that all play the game with their own flair and unique style.  Japan has been at the forefront of youth development on the women’s side, continues to be the gold standard at our level and will enter the tournament as a favorite to repeat as champions. Ghana is an extraordinary difficult team to play and prepare for with a history of performing well in the past editions of this tournament. They breezed through qualifying and look to have a team that will enter the tournament with a ton of confidence.  Paraguay offers its own unique challenges and proved in their qualifying that they have some attacking power as evidenced by the fact they scored the second highest goal tally in their region.”  

On the process of preparing his young team for the tournament:
“It is great for our preparation to take on another layer but it is crucial that we remain focused on the process. The tournament will take on many different shapes with constant peaks and valleys that are impossible to totally predict. That being said, we have to prepare for as much as we can so that we have the tools necessary to navigate through the tournament that starts by taking the event one game at a time.”   

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U-17 WNT May 30, 2016

MNT vs. BOL Post-Game Quote Sheet

U.S. MNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann 

“Obviously, we are pleased with the game and the result. The energy and the effort that the team put in there was perfect. They made it very tight the first 20 minutes. I think once we scored that first goal and then added a second one, it was very difficult for Bolivia to get back into the game. The team kind of kept pushing - we wanted to score as many as we could. Overall, we saw a lot of good stuff there. We tried to kind of see different elements, starting with having Matt Besler on the left and and Michael Orozco on the right just to test that out and that went perfect, and then we brought in some other players in the second half. Obviously a nice first goal from Christian Pulisic. At such a young age, to get to score a goal for the senior team is quite special. They kept pushing and they tried to add another one, even towards the end, so that was overall a real nice performance.” 

On where this team is six days ahead of the start of Copa America Centenario:
“I think chemistry is really good. It seems that as a group that they have big ambitions. This is a very, very special tournament and they realize that. They realize that it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play this Copa America in the United States, and with every day I think they realize how big this tournament really is. So they're having a good time together. They're hanging out together, and the atmosphere is really good. We are fine tuning elements still. Every game helps you. Every training session helps you. I think no team will come into Copa America and be 100 percent or perfectly prepared. Some players come from out of that Champions League final and straight into Copa America, so it's a bit tricky. It's tricky for coaches, and I include there the coach from Bolivia, how to make everything kind of work. But we appreciate that they made it all the way up here and played that friendly already now.” 

On the best position for Gyasi Zardes:
“Gyasi is an amazing character. He's very, very hungry to learn. He's a great listener and he knows that if certain things are not perfect yet, he’s going to work on it every day and want to improve it. And sometimes it's perfect and the next day maybe it's not so good, but it's totally fine because every player has his strengths and weaknesses. As long as they keep on working on their weaknesses and getting them better and better, then it's totally fine. He's very straight in his thought process. In front of the goal, he knows exactly what he wants to do, which is for a striker very important because you have to follow your first thought. That's crucial. If you start to have two thoughts, then you're going to get messed up. He was very, very kind of calm putting two goals in there, and in the whole game he was involved, so it's coming along.” 

On how much responsibility he is prepared to give the younger players in the tournament:
“What is wonderful to see is just the growth of these players over the last one or two years, how they really improved their game, how they're becoming more adult, obviously stronger physically but also becoming more confident. This is a process, and the process is never ending. But in the first couple of years when you're a pro, it's a big learning curve. We'll take it one step at a time. We put the pieces together for this tournament the best way that we get the right results. I think over the next couple weeks they will definitely get their opportunities to play minutes and to leave an impression and to push more and more the established players towards the edge, which is their job. That's normal. So it will be a very intense and interesting next couple of weeks.” 

On how to keep a young player like Christian Pulisic grounded: 
“With every young player it's really important that not only his environment with the team right now is looking after him, his teammates are looking after him, but I think at a very young age it's important that the family is close by and they make sure that he stays grounded, which is the fact in Dortmund. The people there, they know how to develop talent. They have brought out very big names. They won the World Cup two years ago, and so they know how to handle young talent. I think he is a wonderful kid. He's grounded. He knows that he has a long way to go, but he has no fear, and this is very important, not having fear, especially when you play then in our region when it becomes really physical, and what you're going to see next Friday will be very, very physical. So we obviously have an eye on him. We help. I'm not worried about his process, and we take it one day at a time.

On the partnership of Geoff Cameron and John Brooks, since they have only started twice together in central defense:
“They are moving along great. The fact that they haven't played together that often is down to injuries. It's always down to some other issues, so now finally they're both fit. They're both healthy. So now I think that they fine tune, they develop a good partnership and hopefully that partnership is very valuable. On the other side, we're bringing along the Steve Birnbaum's and the Matt Besler's - obviously he's a World Cup veteran - which is very, very important because the team that starts this Copa America probably won't be the team that finishes it. 

On the role of Alejandro Bedoya: 
“Ale's role, if it's a wide role or a role more inside, depends on what system we play. It depends on what is needed. it depends on who we play against and so on. These are always the different pieces that we are discussing up and down the flip chart, because we don't have the luxury to say, ‘OK, we ignore what the opponent is doing. We just do what we want.’ That's not the case. We're not Brazil or Argentina. We're not Germany or Spain. So we have to have an eye on what Colombia is coming with, a (Juan Guillermo) Cuadrado, a (Carlos) Bacca, James Rodriguez. And then we've got to put the pieces together. So it's great to have players at your disposal that don't have any issues maybe playing a little bit more wide or playing inside. They give everything they have, and I think this really something - getting back now to the chemistry we talked in the beginning - very, very important that they really just fight for each other. Everybody behind the ball when we lose a ball and then work to win it back, and then we move forward again, and so it will be a very exciting couple of weeks ahead of us.  

On his evaluation of Matt Besler's performance at left back, and whether you would be comfortable deploying him there in Copa America should it be necessary: 
“Absolutely very comfortable, and that's why he played left back today. Obviously, we have Edgar Castillo coming in tomorrow, but, again it depends then who's playing the right flank from the opponents? When you talk about certain names, then you need to have an idea you're now maybe throwing Matt in there because he's a 100 percent pure defender and gets the defensive job done and doesn't need to worry about going forward that much, or do you want to have more an attacking-minded left back. He did a great job, so that 45 minutes was very valuable to us. The same with Michael Orozco. Michael already played a couple of times right back for us, but it's important that we know if it's needed, whatever happens, two yellow cards, a red card, an injury, on the left side there's Matt always ready if it's needed and on the right side there's a Michael Orozco who can jump in there as well.” 

On the abilities of Bobby Wood:
“If you just see the learning curve of Bobby, I think it's very impressive. I remember a couple of comments from the media side two years ago when I brought him in for the first game in Czech Republic, and people were wondering why because he was sitting on the bench at 1860 Munich, fighting against relegation in the second Bundesliga. With a young player, they can only grow if they play. You've got to give young players the chance, the minutes, and also give them the OK that they can make mistakes. They learn out of the mistakes very quickly, and this is what Bobby did. He had his chances in the beginning. In the first couple of games, remember maybe Ecuador in Hartford he missed three 100 percent ones and we should have won that game. Well now he's probably right there, of three chances at least one he puts in. So this is a great learning curve, and it obviously is fun for us to watch because we need fresh, young players breaking through, but we're not giving them that for free. They have to work hard for it. Bobby has the will to work very hard, also to chase back, to help out defensively, which he did. So his job was basically to run at the back line. This afternoon I texted him in the middle of the Real Madrid-Atletico game – Gyasi as well – and said please watch (Cristiano) Ronaldo and (Gareth) Bale, how they work the back line, coming from the outside, going inside, going to the other side. This is what they have to learn. They have to move people around, and then suddenly space opens up and things will happen.” 

U.S. forward and Budweiser Man of the Match GYASI ZARDES 

“You play each and every single game and you give it your all.  If you give it your all, once you step off the field, you’re satisfied. I know there’s always room for growth, even tonight, I’m trying to grow as a player.” 

On competiveness for a starting spot: 
“It’s very competitive on this team because we have so many versatile players on this team that can play numerous positions and not only that, everyone is technically gifted and everybody is very skillful and have an eye for the goal. It’s competition day in and day out.” 

On confidence going into Copa America Centenario:
“I feel ready for this tournament, and this week I have before we step on the field against Colombia I’m going to use it to the best of my ability. I’m trying to grow in confidence.Tonight helps a ton, but at the same time you can never be satisfied, you always have to keep working.” 

U.S. midfielder ALEJANDRO BEDOYA

On team confidence:
“All the players that have played, even with the guys coming off the bench like Darlington and Christian, were all guys that can move off the ball. I think its just one game today, let’s not get carried away either, but I think it gives us confidence and we’ll move forward from here.” 

On his comfort playing in central position:
“I’m always trying to find those pocket of spaces in between the lines, and I think tonight I was able to do that. Moving off the ball is very key, and I think once we have a lot of guys interchanging positions and trying to get in those pocket of spaces, that can be very dangerous.” 

U.S. midfielder CHRISTIAN PULISIC

On scoring his first goal:
"It was amazing, I can’t explain it. It’s always amazing just to get on the field, and to score was just incredible. To be able to celebrate with my teammates and hear the fans, is amazing." 

On being the youngest player in U.S. history to score for the senior team:
"I'm just living life in the moment. It's cool, stats and stuff are cool, but I just want to win this tournament coming up." 

On his comfort level in the group: 
"The guys have taken me in. They're all really nice, and it's helped me a lot that I've been with them a few weeks now. It's getting more and more comfortable. I'm making more friends." 

On the confidence he has displayed in these games:
"It's just what I learned since I was a little kid. My dad taught me no matter what to just be myself.  "I knew that I was good enough, that I had the ability, so I never shy away from any moment, and I don't think anyone should."
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MNT May 30, 2016

MNT Routs Bolivia 4-0 in Final Copa America Warm-up

KANSAS CITY, Kansas (May 28, 2016) –The U.S. Men’s National Team added a line to record books as it swept past Bolivia 4-0 at Children’s Mercy Park in its final tune-up match before this summer’s historic 2016 Copa America Centenario.

The 4-0 score line, which is the largest margin of victory in U.S. MNT history against a South American country, was highlighted by Christian Pulisic’s strike that made him the youngest goal scorer in the USA’s modern era (since 1990) at 17 years, 253 days old. Forward Gyasi Zardes notched a pair of tallies – one on either side of the break – to earn the first multi-goal game of his international career. Defender John Brooks also added to his burgeoning tally with his third goal in a U.S. shirt while also helping U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan pitch the team’s second consecutive shutout.

The MNT begins the 2016 Copa America Centenario on June 3 vs. Colombia at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. (6:30 p.m. PT; FS1, Univision, UniMAS, UDN). The U.S. will then continue group play on June 7 vs. Costa Rica at Soldier Field in Chicago (7 p.m. CT; FS1, UniMAS, UDN), before facing Paraguay at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. (7 p.m. ET; FS1, UniMAS, UDN).

Goal Scoring Rundown:
USA – Gyasi Zardes (Alejandro Bedoya), 26th minute:
A flowing team passing sequence allowed Alejandro Bedoya to chip a perfect pass over the Bolivia defense to the streaking Zardes. Bolivia goalkeeper Guillermo Viscarra rushed out of the goalmouth and to the top of the penalty area in an attempt to cut down the angle and clear the ball away, but Zardes beat him to the ball and calmly rolled a one-touch shot into the vacated net. USA 1, BOL 0 [ WATCH]

USA – John Brooks (Alejandro Bedoya), 37th minute: U.S. captain Michael Bradley alertly picked out Bedoya from a quickly-taken U.S. set piece and the Nantes midfielder slipped past the Bolivia defense to cut a low cross through the penalty box from the right side. With the Bolivia defense caught scrambling, Brooks lost his marker and easily side-footed the ball into the left side of the goal from the top of the six-yard box. USA 2, BOL 0 [ WATCH]

USA – Gyasi Zardes (Bobby Wood), 52nd minute: Zardes began the goal sequence by recycling a U.S. possession through Bradley who switched the point of attack with a long, pinpoint pass to Bobby Wood out wide on the left. Wood beat his defender to the end line with a speedy move and just before the ball went out of bounds, sent a low cross through the six-yard box. Zardes did well to get inside position on his defender and slid to one-time a left-footed shot into the Bolivia goal. USA 3, BOL 0 [WATCH]

USA – Christian Pulisic (Darlington Nagbe), 69th minute: Nagbe seized on a loose ball on the left side and darted through the Bolivia defense with the aid of a slick one-two with Jermaine Jones before drawing the last defender to him. Pulisic was making a run on Nagbe’s right and Nagbe slid a short pass into his path. Pulisic made no mistake and pushed a hard shot past Viscarra into the lower right corner to cap the scoring. USA 4, BOL 0 [ WATCH] FINAL

Next on the Schedule: The USA commences group play at the 2016 Copa America Centenario against Colombia in the tournament’s opening match on Friday, June 3 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. PT and the game will be broadcast on FS1, Univision, UniMAS and UDN.
Social: Twitter (@ussoccer; @ussoccer_esp); Facebook; Instagram; Snapchat (ussoccer)

Milestone Watch:

  • Clint Dempsey made his 124th international appearance, moving him ahead of DaMarcus Beasley into fifth on the MNT’s all-time caps list. He sits three back of Marcelo Balboa (127) for fourth place.
  • Christian Pulisic scored his first international goal at 17 years, 253 days, becoming the youngest goal scorer in modern era of the U.S. MNT history. Juan Agudelo previously held MNT record for youngest scorer (17 years, 359 days) when he tallied against South Africa on Nov. 17, 2010.
  • Gyasi Zardes’ two goals mark the LA Galaxy forward’s first multi-goal game for his country. He now has five career goals for the USA.

Additional Notes:

  • The win marks the USA’s first victory vs. Bolivia, improving the MNT’s all-time record against La Verde to 1-4-2.
  • The four-goal margin marks the largest margin of victory for the MNT against a South American nation.
  • The MNT won all three of its Copa America warm-up matches defeating Puerto Rico 3-1, Ecuador 1-0 and Bolivia 4-0.

- U.S. Men’s National Team Match Report -

Match: U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Bolivia
Date: May 28, 2016
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Children’s Mercy Park; Kansas City, Kansas
Kickoff: 7 p.m. CT
Attendance: 8,894
Weather: 73 degrees, sunny

Scoring Summary:       1          2          F
USA                             2          2          4
BOL                              0          0          0

USA – Gyasi Zardes (Alejandro Bedoya)                        26th minute
USA – John Brooks (Alejandro Bedoya)             37
USA – Gyasi Zardes (Bobby Wood)                   52
USA – Christian Pulisic (Darlington Nagbe)         69

Lineups:
USA: 1-Brad Guzan, 14-Michael Orozco (2-DeAndre Yedlin, 46), 20-Geoff Cameron, 6-John Brooks, 5-Matt Besler (23-Fabian Johnson, 46), 11-Alejandro Bedoya (10-Darlington Nagbe, 63), 4-Michael Bradley (capt.) (19-Graham Zusi, 73), 13-Jermaine Jones, 9-Gyasi Zardes (17-Christian Pulisic, 63), 8-Clint Dempsey (18-Chris Wondolowski, 72), 7-Bobby Wood
Subs not used:
12-Tim Howard, 22-William Yarbrough, 3-Steve Birnbaum, 15-Kyle Beckerman, 16-Perry Kitchen
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

BOL: 23-Guillermo Viscarra, 4-Diego Bejarano, 21-Ronald Eguino, 5-Nelson Cabrera, 3-Luis Gutiérrez (17-Marvin Bejarano, 68), 13-Alejandro Meleán (18-Rodrigo Ramallo, 54), 8-Martín Smedberg-Dalence (22-Edward Zenteno, 74), 20-Fernando Saucedo (15-Pedro Azogue, 46), 10-Jhasmani Campos (11-Bruno Miranda, 46), 9-Yasmani Duk (capt.); 19-Carmelo Algarañaz (14-Raúl Castro, 46)
Subs not used:
1-Carlos Lampe, 12-Rómel Quiñónez, 2-Mario Saavedra, 6-Wálter Veizaga, 7-Juan Carlos Arce, 16-Cristhian Machado
Head
Coach: Julio César Baldivieso

Stats Summary: USA / BOL
Shots: 9 / 6
Shots on Goal: 7 / 3
Saves: 3 / 3
Corner Kicks: 6 / 2
Fouls: 12 / 18
Offside: 2 / 4

Misconduct Summary:
BOLJhasmani Campos (caution)              30th minute
BOL – Yasmani Duk (caution)                      76

Officials:
Referee: Elmer Bonilla (SLV)
Assistant Referee 1: Jose Mangandi (SLV)
Assistant Referee 2: Leonardo Sanchez (CUB)
4th Official: Marlon Mejia (SLV)

Budweiser Man of the Match: Gyasi Zardes

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MNT May 28, 2016

Countdown to Brazil Well Underway for WNT

While 2016 has been a busy year for the U.S. Women’s National Team – par for the course for any year hosting an Olympic Games – the USA has made the most of its eventful schedule during the run-up to the tournament and the first five months of the year can be described as highly successful. The USA is 11-0-0 in 2016, earning 10 shutouts while allowing just one goal. 

The U.S. Women kicked off its Olympic cycle with a 5-0 win against Ireland in late January and then went on to qualify for the Olympic Games while also winning two tournaments – the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship, its fourth consecutive title at such event, in February; and the SheBelieves Cup in March. In April, the U.S. women played two friendly matches against Olympic Group G opponent Colombia, winning 7-0 and 3-0 with seven different players scoring the 10 goals. 

Following the games against Colombia, the U.S. WNT returned to their respective National Women’s Soccer League clubs to kick off the historic fourth season, thus maintaining their fitness and sharpening their leadership skills during the break from National Team duties. Six weeks later, they are back together in Denver, Colorado to resume preparations for the 2016 Olympic Games with a pair of matches against 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup finalist Japan, on June 2 in Denver and June 5 in Cleveland.

“It’s good to be back in camp,” said U.S. WNT goalkeeper Hope Solo. “I think what’s great is that everyone is fit because we’ve been playing games in the NWSL. Of course, there’s a couple of people who are battling injuries like Carli Lloyd but she’s coming back healthy and strong. It’s nice to see everyone feel confident because we’ve been playing, we’ve been getting minutes. I think it makes for a short, strong camp where we can get in specific work.”

After the matches against Japan, the USA will finish its Road to Rio with two Olympic Send-Off games, a meeting with South Africa for the first time in history on July 9 in Chicago, and a soon to be announced match in late July right before the team departs for Brazil.

The countdown to Brazil is ticking and there is little time left before the quest for Olympic gold begins anew. The players – who are trying to make the Olympic roster -- and staff – who are picking it -- knows this is the time when every training, every gym session and of course, every match, represents a chance to impress, improve and tweak anything that needs fine-tuning. It is important to peak at the right time and the U.S. has always proved to be adept at finding that final chemistry on the field before taking it to the big stage. This is one of the reasons why this two-game set against Japan will be an excellent test of mental and physical strength.

“We have two games against a great team,” said Solo. “I know Japan doesn’t have a lot of their well-known players but we’re all really excited to see the younger, technical side of Japan. We don’t know what they’re going to bring but it will be great, and it will be a little bit different than what we’ve seen in the past.”

The USA and Japan have a rich history dating back to 1986, but it’s the more recent meetings between the two sides that have bound these two countries together in women’s soccer history and provided a world class display of talent, emotion and gritty competition. Japan will miss out on this year’s Olympic Games after failing to qualify out of the difficult Asian Football Confederation, but that will not diminish the intensity and quality of the games we can expect to see. 

The USA and Japan have met in the last three world finals, with the USA losing the 2011 Women’s World Cup in penalty kicks after a 2-2 tie over regulation and overtime, then winning the 2012 Olympic goal medal game 2-1, and the historic 2015 Women’s World Cup Final 5-2. These will be the first meetings with Japan since the Women’s World Cup and the USA has an all-time record of 25-1-6 against the Asian nation, outscoring them 92-22.

With only four international friendly games left on the schedule before the team hops on a plane to Brazil, the U.S. WNT is aware of the importance of time and the challenges that await in Group G, where the USA will face New Zealand, France and Colombia. The USA has played all three of those opponents in the last year and is more than ready to get things started. Solo, who with 98 shutouts is only two away from becoming the first goalkeeper in U.S. history to reach the century mark, put it best:

“On our workout sheets today said 67 days to Rio. The countdown has started. Before you know it, it’s going to be here.” 

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WNT May 28, 2016

Experienced Besler Eager to Seize Historic Copa America Opportunity

The scene played out in a fashion he knew all too well, but Matt Besler took a few moments to process how it caught up to him. All of the carefully devised plans crumbled. He expected to spend last summer in the heat of a CONCACAF Gold Cup defense. Instead, he coped with the fallout of missing out on the squad entirely.

Besler felt all of the natural emotions when United States Men’s National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann left him out of his 23-man squad for the continental championship. He cycled through them as quickly as he could. His mind drifted from the frustration of the opportunity lost to the possibility of using the setback to push his way back into the frame for World Cup Qualifying and the upcoming Copa América Centenario. He pinpointed his approach as a key component in the recovery.

“I’ve seen guys miss out on teams,” Besler explained to ussoccer.com. “It happens every single year. The ones who get through it the best are the ones who handle it the right way. It was a difficult time. It was tough to do interviews like these and try to explain why you weren’t on the roster and how the team was doing and all of that stuff. But it’s part of the process. And it’s made me a stronger person.”

Most of the resolve emerged from his tried and tested qualities. His consistency with Sporting Kansas City is the reason why he assumed the club captaincy with Sporting Kansas City, claimed a MLS Cup title and pried his way into the U.S. National Team picture in the first place. It is why he emerged as a key figure during the buildup to the 2014 World Cup and started all four games in Brazil.

Those tenets formed the bedrock of his response. Besler leaned on his teammates for support and streamlined his thoughts. He quickly located the steady ground required to navigate a busy summer with Sporting KC and state his claims for a recall.

“I think I really learned a lot about how to focus,” Besler said. “A lot of times, I feel like we can get caught up in all of these different things going on around us in the big picture, but I think the best way to get through things and get through situations like that is to narrow your focus and control the things you can control. That’s the attitude I had.”

Whatever Besler did, it worked. His performances reflected his desire to prove a point and underpin his international case. Sporting KC racked up three straight wins and tromped through two rounds of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup as the Gold Cup unfolded.

Those displays prompted Besler’s recall to the international fold in September and spurred his return to the starting XI for the CONCACAF Cup and the opening two matches in FIFA World Cup Qualifying. His performances justified his continued inclusion and ensured his tumultuous year ended with the proper footing.


Once Matt Besler reurned to the U.S. fold, he helped the MNT secure a clean sheet and important road point
to begin World Cup Qualifying for Russia 2018.

All of the trials and tribulations provided Besler with context as he plowed onward toward Copa América. There are few silver linings after missing out on a major tournament, but Besler frames those unfamiliar setbacks in a different light now.

“I think I’m just more experienced,” Besler said. “I think experience goes a very long way in this game. I had a lot of positive experiences, but I also had some negative ones last year as well. When you put everything together, I really felt like I grew as a player. I felt like I grew as a person as well. I think that’s just going to help me out going forward.”

It is now the foundation as Besler plans for another major tournament. The sting of last summer fades with each passing day, though it is still there in some form or another. But the opportunity ahead now – a chance to play in this one-off tournament against the top teams from CONCACAF and CONMEBOL – provides a chance to compensate for the disappointment of last summer.

As Besler ponders the challenges ahead, he recalls one of those searing memories from the trip to Brazil. It is the sort of recollection capable of informing why he cherishes the opportunity ahead.

Besler left the field in Salvador and spent time in the recesses of Arena Fonte Nova wrestling with the fallout from the round of 16 defeat to Belgium.  He said he remembered being devastated as he worked through it all in the locker room. He turned to Michael Bradley and proceeded through the twists and turns of that dramatic affair in real time. Bradley soaked it all in as Besler worked through the previous 120 minutes and wondered what might have been.

When Besler reached a stopping point, Bradley offered some insight Besler carries with him to this day. Bradley said those emotions made the tournament and tournaments like this one so special. He said they only come around every so often, they draw so much from you and then they just end.

Those words stuck with Besler even as he emerged from that haze and moved onwards in his career. They ring true now as he stands on the precipice of another major tournament after missing out on the last one. And they reveal how he plans to grasp the occasion with both hands.    

“I think the Copa America is an example of one of those once-in-a-lifetime tournaments,” Besler said. “We want to take advantage of it.”

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MNT May 28, 2016
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