U.S. national team defender Matt Besler began journaling last year at the advice of his doctors to speed up his recovery from a concussion.
Besler took the suggestion seriously, dutifully keeping a daily diary.
OK, really seriously.
The result of the exercise has become a book, “No Other Home: Living, Leading, and Learning What Matters Most.”
Its pending release comes at a particularly busy time for Besler. He’s not only in the midst of World Cup qualifying with the national team, but Sporting Kansas City is set to host the New York Red Bulls in the U.S. Open Cup final next week before making the final push for postseason positioning in MLS play.
Besler is clear: This is not a traditional sports biography and he never intended it to be.
“It’s basically a journal of mine,” he said. “It’s a collection of entries and blog posts and ideas and quotes and pictures. Just a bunch of my thoughts, I guess.”
Known as one of soccer’s genuinely nice guys, Besler was on the U.S. team that played in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Now the Americans are attempting to play for soccer’s most prestigious prize again. The United States is coming off a 1-1 draw in qualifying against Honduras.
There are two games remaining for the United States in its qualifying group. The Americans currently sit in fourth place on the table, with the top three earning the trip to Russia next summer.
Besler started writing the book in March 2016 when he sustained a head injury during a national team training camp.
“They (the doctors) recommended it would help keep my brain active and help get me back on the field quicker,” Besler said. “That’s when I first really started writing. And I found out that I enjoyed it, and it did help me on and off the field.”
It took Besler some 18 months to complete and it’s scheduled for release in early November. He didn’t force it, preferring to just write when the feeling prompted him. He tried to write when things were going well — and when things weren’t.
“I never wanted it to be a distraction. I wanted to keep my focus on the field,” he said. “So I ended up writing it on airplanes, during road trips, in hotel rooms. Even at home, after I drove home from practice, I’d think of stuff in the car and I’d go home and write it down.”
Besler was fully recovered when he represented the United States in a World Cup qualifier at St. Vincent and the Grenadines last September. The date is memorable for two reasons: His daughter Parker was born and he scored his first international goal.
Besler’s wife, Amanda, went into labor in Kansas City the night before the match. With no way to return home in time from the Caribbean island, Besler welcomed his daughter from afar that morning. Later that night, he scored in the Americans’ 6-0 victory.
“You can’t make up that kind of stuff, that story,” he said. “It was just a crazy 48 hours to say the least. But looking back on it now, as much as I would have done anything to be there and to be present, I don’t know if I’d change anything. Everything worked out the way it was supposed to. And now I have one heck of a story to tell her one day.”
Besler has appeared in 39 matches for the United States.
A native of Overland Park, just outside of Kansas City on the Kansas side, Besler went to Notre Dame and helped the team to the NCAA tournament in each of his four seasons. He was drafted eighth overall in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft by Kansas City, which was then known as the Wizards.
He’s now played in 222 matches with the team, scoring three goals.
The two most memorable moments of his career — he couldn’t pick just one — were playing in the World Cup and Sporting’s victory to win the MLS Cup in 2013.
“That was really special for me. It was my first championship that I’ve won,” he said. “We got to do it in front of our home fans in Kansas City, which is my hometown. So I had a lot of family and friends there. It meant a lot to our city and it meant a lot to me, too.”