International Callups Advantageous for SKC

Quality Sporting KC players have often been called up to their national team. So who’s next?
by Katherine Rupp   |   Wednesday, November 13, 2013

State of SKC - column on Sporting KC (SKC) & the Kansas City soccer scene.

Sporting Kansas City – to be cliché – has an embarrassment of riches in terms of player pool quality.

But there are certainly stars who could someday make an impact on the national team of their country. And some, without question, currently excel in the international game.

Seasoned vets

One could say Matt Besler and Graham Zusi are just two great players on Sporting Kansas City that have really come into their own. Others could also say they have become big wigs on the United States Men’s National Team.

Though 2012-2013 was a relatively big ‘breakout’ year for both of the Sporting KC men, USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann has relied on the former Terp (Zusi), and the Notre Dame alum (Besler), by calling them in for big games including the infamous 0-0 World Cup Qualifying draw at the Azteca against Mexico in March 2013.

Not only did Besler put an in incredible defensive work rate during the hard fought tie, Zusi showed off his eye for making defensive runs and showing up in certain plays when it was needed.

The US Men’s National Team has two upcoming qualifiers – one in Scotland on Friday and one in Austria on Tuesday – in which Zusi and Besler were, for good reason, left off the team to rest and rejuvenate for the second leg of the Eastern Conference Final against the Houston Dynamo, and a possible subsequent MLS Cup Final.

Besler and Zusi, for most soccer pundits, look to be almost ‘locks’ for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. So knowing that the two Sporting men were barely on the team three years ago but most likely will be enjoying the beaches of Ipanema (and obviously playing soccer) this coming summer, let’s look at a few more players who could suddenly rise from the ashes and play for the US National Team – or their home countries’ national team.

Currently campaigning

In this most recent international break, the only Sporting KC player who has been called up for national duty is Soony Saad. The forward, although he played for the US U-20 team, eventually chose Lebanon, and will be playing in the 2015 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup qualifiers.

Another player, though he played in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and was called up to Klinsmann’s January camp in early 2013, who doesn’t look ripe to be getting the call for Brazil in 2014 (a shame as he was born there), is Benny Feilhaber.

However, for Feilhaber, there is a bright side of not getting too much press about his name and the 23-man roster for the World Cup: With the way the midfielder has played in previous games for Sporting KC, he could keep the embers warm in Klinsmann’s brain about him and be a shock call-up. Feilhaber’s postseason play for Sporting KC has been more inspiring than earlier this season, and if he continues to play like he has been and doing so more consistently, he might rile things up in the USA’s midfield pool.

In addition to Feilhaber and Saad who have played – and in Saad’s case, continues to play more regularly – for their respective national teams, the man they call Haitian Xavi – Peterson Joseph – as well as Mechack Jerome play for the Haitian National Team.

Not to be missed: Teal Bunbury (USA) and Lawrence Olum (Kenya) have also played for their respective National Teams.

Future chance?

Out of those who have yet to be called up to a friendly roster, or even a National Team camp, a few names who supporters – and to be frank, anyone in the soccer world (because who doesn’t want to see more MLS players on the National Team roster?) – would be excited for include Seth Sinovic and Chance Myers for the US National Team and Oriol Rosell for Spain.

Although both fullbacks, Sinovic and Myers, are worthy of getting, at the very least, a call up to a camp, it’s hard to imagine a future where it does happen. They’ve showed their chops this season as defenders by helping goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen to 13 shutouts on the regular season. This was also a big year for Myers, as not only did he record his first MLS goal, he also scored his second, both during a 3-2 loss to the Portland Timbers.

And per usual, or so it seems, post-season has become Sinovic-time. With a clutch goal (only his second in his career – his first goal came during 2012’s Eastern Conference Semifinal game against Houston) in this year’s second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinal against New England, Sinovic has been showing what Sporting fans have known all year: he’s dependable and though he’s not a flashy player, he’s one of the most hard-working on the team. Myers and Sinovic are in the prime age group (25 and 26, respectively), where if they were to be called up, they’d most likely have their one shot to shine and impress Klinsmann and the other coaches because of the burgeoning talent that United States has in its back pocket.

Another player who would be very interesting to watch on his National Team is Oriol Rosell. The midfielder was brought up within the Barcelona Academy of La Masia, which is a breeding ground for Spanish footballers. Although the Spanish manager, Vincent del Bosque, most likely will not ever call up Rosell – the SKC man has a slim chance with all of the recent players being European-based – that does not mean Rosell should slow down his impressive play at all from this 2013 season. A bright spot is that the Catalonian is only 21-years-old and that means there are still a few years to catch someone’s eye on the Spanish National Team’s staff.

Especially in the past year, Zusi and Besler, by not only being starters on Sporting KC, but also becoming regulars for the US National Team, have shown what quality MLS has and how Major League Soccer players can, and do, make a difference on a National Team.

NEXT UP: November 23 - MLS playoffs: Sporting KC v. Houston Dynamo, Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kan., 7:30 p.m. EST, NBCSN.

Katherine RUPP

Drake University
Club Domestic:
Sporting KC
Club Foreign:
Tottenham Hotspur
Unabashed Minnesotan by birth. Tried reliving the glory days of collegiate intramural soccer championships but an ACL tear dashed future hopes of adult recreational greatness. Covering a city’s team that’s too big for one state: SKC.