First Kid, First Goal - A Special Day for Matt Besler

Matt Besler woke up Friday morning hoping for a special day. It’s fair to say he had no idea precisely how special it would be.

On the day he and his wife Amanda welcomed Parker Rhea Besler into the world that morning, he scored his first international goal in the 32nd minute of the USA’s 6-0 World Cup Qualifying victory at St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“It’s amazing, it really is,” Besler said when asked about his day following the match. “It’s just hard to explain how I was feeling this morning. Obviously a big part of me would have liked to have been at home to be there and be at the side of my wife. At the same time, I was just so excited to play in the game. I really felt special today, and I’m glad that things worked out and I made the most of it.”

Feeling conflicted about the timing of the camp and where his wife was at this stage in her pregnancy with two weeks to her due date, Besler knew there was a chance he would miss the birth. Because of the difficulty of travel from the U.S. to St. Vincent – there are no direct flights – the veteran defender knew there was a period of time where he might be locked in without a way to get back.

That point came following Thursday’s night’s training session at Arnos Vale Stadium, when he received a text stating only “CALL ME ASAP.”

Besler told MNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann of the news that night and said they would talk again in the morning.  He got the great news just before 7 a.m., and when he spoke to Klinsmann, the coach offered to send him home straight away.  With his baby born, no easy path to return and a huge World Cup qualifier to be played Besler elected to stick it out.

“I was really excited, but I was also ready to play. This was something I really wanted to do because it’s already a special day and I wanted to make it even more special and play in this special game,” he added.

With the U.S. already leading following Bobby Wood’s 28th minute goal, Besler secured his daughter’s first gift four minutes later. A free kick played into the box from Graham Zusi was poorly cleared by a St. Vincent defender and fell right to Besler, who chested the ball down before volleying into the net. 

His teammates gathered around him and joined as he did the classic “rock the baby” goal celebration. With just three goals in MLS play since starting with Sporting KC in 2009, Besler admitted he hasn’t had a lot of time to practice goal celebrations.

“It just came natural I guess,” he joked after the match. “Once you become a dad, it’s just instinct to do that.”

As the MNT returns to Jacksonville, Fla., Saturday afternoon to prepare for Tuesday’s Semifinal Round World Cup Qualifying finale against Trinidad & Tobago, Besler will head back to Kansas City to be with his wife and new baby girl. He’ll also be carrying that present, the ball with which he scored his first international goal for his first child.