Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sporting KC's Matt Besler and Graham Zusi voted to MLS Best XI for second straight year

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler and midfielder Graham Zusi were named to the 2013 MLS Best XI on Tuesday, further recognizing their outstanding seasons in Major League Soccer.

The honor is the second straight Best XI selection -- as voted on by players, clubs and media -- for both Besler and Zusi, who join Preki and Jimmy Conrad as the only players in club history to receive Best XI accolades in multiple seasons with the team.

"It's well deserved and it's an indication of their consistency over the last few years. That's why they're on the Best XI again," Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes said. "Their performances have been tremendous. They are two guys that off the field in the off-season spend the time to prepare for each season so it's a reward for how they have grown as professionals. I'm very happy for them and very proud of both of them."

Besler, 26, was runner-up for MLS Defender of the Year in 2013 after winning the award one year ago. The Overland Park, Kan. native earned his second MLS All-Star selection this season and was named the team's defensive player of the year for a third straight year.

He anchored a Sporting KC team that led the league in fewest goals allowed (30), fewest shots conceded (301), fewest shots on goal conceded (100), duels won (2032), aerials won (708), headed clearances (680), interceptions (794) and fewest corners conceded (134).

Among MLS defenders with 2,000 regular season minutes played, Besler finished in the top three in the following statistical categories:
  • Most passes (50.35) and successful passes (40.39) per 90 minutes played
  • Fewest shots on goal conceded (23)
  • Second most aerials (5.13) and aerials won (3.22) per 90 minutes played
  • Third most touches (72.35) and duels won (5.91) per 90 minutes played
  • Third most chances created from set play (12)
Besler debuted with the U.S. Men's National Team in January for the first of 12 international appearances in 2013, including six FIFA World Cup qualifiers and all three knockout round games en route to the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup championship. The U.S. was 8-1-2 on the year with Besler in the starting lineup.

Zusi, 27, has recorded a career-high six goals and a team-best 11 assists in all competition this season for Sporting Kansas City while becoming a key contributor on the U.S. Men's National Team.

Zusi has 18 international appearances, highlighted by a role in 12 of the United States' last 13 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. He has tallied three goals and two assists for the U.S. MNT, including goals in each of the last two FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

After being named MLS Breakout Player of the Year in 2011, Zusi was an MLS MVP finalist in 2012 and was a nominee for Best MLS Player at the 2013 ESPYS. He led all MLS players with five game-winning assists and 52 chances created from set play in 2013, and was the top-rated midfielder in the MLS Castrol Index. Zusi started the 100th game of his MLS career (including playoffs) in the Eastern Conference Championship second leg and is tied for the most assists in team history in the postseason.

Besler and Zusi have each started all nine of the team's MLS Cup playoff matches since being drafted in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. Both players signed new contracts with the club in the last 12 months.

2013 MLS Best XI

GK Donovan Ricketts (Portland Timbers)
DEF Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City)
DEF Jose Goncalves (New England Revolution)
DEF Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy)
MF Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
MF Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls)
MF Will Johnson (Portland Timbers)
MF Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers)
FWD Marco Di Vaio (Montreal Impact)
FWD Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy)
FWD Mike Magee (Chicago Fire)
Best XI: Club History
Matt Besler (2012, 2013)
Graham Zusi (2012, 2013)
Aurelien Collin (2012)
Jimmy Nielsen (2012)
Jimmy Conrad (2004, 2005, 2006, 2008)
Jose Burciaga, Jr. (2006)
Kerry Zavagnin (2004)
Preki (1996, 1997, 2001, 2003)
Tony Meola (2000)
Peter Vermes (2000)
Mark Chung (1997)
Richard Gough (1997)