Sporting Kansas City’s captain Matt Besler had a busy night in the Final of the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, U.S. Soccer club championship. The U.S. National Team defender and Kansas native kept things tight at the back, resisting the menace of New York Red Bulls’ ace marksman Bradley Wright-Phillips and their elegant playmaker Sacha Kljestan. Amid the celebrations, fireworks and blue confetti at Children’s Mercy Park, the good-natured skipper took a few minutes to talk to ussoccer.com about what it means to bring another title to Kansas City.
ussoccer.com: It’s another Open Cup title for Sporting Kansas City. That makes it four in all. How does it feel to be a part of a club that has never lost an Open Cup final?
Matt Besler: This is what it’s all about. These are the nights you live for as a soccer player. Here with these fans right now and my teammates, celebrating a win like this is the reason why you even play this game.
ussoccer.com: The game had a physical edge from the start. The tackles were flying in and no one on either team gave any quarter. Did you expect the game to play out the way it did?
MB: It was a tough game. Everyone was working for everything and it was clear that both teams were committed and trying their all to win this Cup. Both teams were really aggressive in their tackles and it really played out like a classic cup final. I felt like this was the kind of game we were going to have tonight and we were good enough to get through it in the end. But it was never easy.
ussoccer.com: The New York Red Bulls didn’t go quietly. They were pressing hard at the end with the score at 2-1 and it looked like an equalizer might be in the cards…
MB: You have to credit the Red Bulls for the effort they put in, but at the end of the day we did what we needed to do and it was enough for us to win. You can never predict how a final is going to go, but you can be sure they’re not going to be easy. None of our games in this Open Cup were easy. We had to work for everything. And this one went our way tonight and I don’t really have the words to describe what I’m feeling right now.
ussoccer.com: It seemed like there was a special feeling to this Sporting Kansas City team from the start of the Open Cup campaign. Would you say there was something like destiny about this Cup run?
MB: I would. It started in our first game. We really felt like something special was happening with us. There was a real special feeling in the locker room and around the club. When we played in Dallas and had to be a man down for almost 90 minutes, there was something about winning that game with all of that going against us, that just made it seem like we were headed for something great.
ussoccer.com: The SKC Family suffered a loss not long before that FC Dallas game…
MB: One of our owners, Neal Patterson, passed away a week before the Dallas Quarterfinal. It was a tough thing for the club and for everyone connected to it. I’d just like to dedicate this win to him.
ussoccer.com: You’re getting to be an old hand at winning Cups – MLS Cups and Open Cups. How does this one measure up to the rest?
MB: Any Cup feels just as sweet as the one before. It never gets old. I don’t even know how I feel right now – I’m still in a haze about it. I haven’t had a minute to even digest it. We’re trying to win as many of these things as we can before we’re done playing. Nothing compares to the feeling.
ussoccer.com: Latif Blessing, a young man with a lot of talent, had a big night. In a team with many experienced leaders, it must be satisfying to see one of the youngsters step up in such a big way…
MB: Latif stepped up tonight. He was a threat from the opening whistle. It was unfortunate that he had to leave the game with an injury, but he certainly made his mark on it. He imposed his will while he was in there. We couldn’t ask any more of him.
ussoccer.com: What do you have to say to the fans that have been such a huge part of your 2017 Open Cup campaign and all of the success that has come to this club?
MB: I just want to say “thank you” to all of them. They are our twelfth man, they are our lifeblood, whatever you want to call it. It doesn’t matter. We owe a lot to these fans right here. They’re just the best. They’re always there for us. You can’t find better fans anywhere.