121914_isi_beslermatt_usmntjt070114105 John Todd/isiphotos.com
23 for January Camp

Mat Besler Must Make His Case in U.S. January Camp

The 27-year-old central defender suffered a hamstring injury against Ghana in the 2014 World Cup and has struggled ever since. That's why he needs to be part of Jurgen Klinsmann's January training camp.
BY Blake Thomsen Posted
December 20, 2014
9:23 AM
Editors note: A group of ASN staffers have compared notes, argued, arm-wrestled, and ultimately decided on a 23-man roster for the January U.S. national team camp. We will be unveiling our proposed squad in the coming weeks and crafting arguments for every name on our list.

LET'S GET THIS out of the way first: Matt Besler is a shoo-in for a spot at the U.S. national team's January camp, as he’s still in his prime and has been a national team stalwart for the past two years. He will doubtlessly play a big role throughout the next World Cup cycle. But interestingly enough, he’ll actually enter the 2015 camp with a little bit more to prove than he did in 2014.

A year ago, Besler was coming off a truly brilliant year for club and country, leading Sporting Kansas City to an MLS Cup title and anchoring the U.S. backline for a successful Hexagonal campaign. Further, the competition at center back was not nearly as stiff as it is now. Geoff Cameron was playing midfield and right back, Jermaine Jones was firmly ensconced in midfield, and John Brooks was far too inconsistent to be considered a reliable first-team option. Meanwhile, Omar Gonzalez had suffered his share of shaky moments in a U.S. shirt, leaving Besler at the very top of the U.S. center back depth chart.

This time around, it’s not nearly that straightforward. Brooks is starting to turn potential into consistent excellence. Jones has been shifted back into a center back spot, where Klinsmann seems to love him. Cameron is getting more looks at center back than ever. And Gonzalez outplayed Besler down the stretch to finish the MLS season.

In July Besler was ranked sixth in the ASN 100, and was the No. 1 central defender on our constantly updated list. Due to his poor run of form and positional maneuverings, he is now 18th overall, and deemed the fifth-best center back.

What does this all mean for Besler? In short, he needs to take this camp by the horns like he did back in 2013, when he rose from national team obscurity into the starting lineup.

All told, Besler has more to gain than most do in this camp—it’s up to him to get the job done and become an automatic starter once again.

Our roster so far: Tesho Akindele, Robbie Rogers, Lee Nguyen, Matt Besler

Blake Thomsen is a frequent ASN contributor. Follow him on Twitter and let him know what you think.

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