Nick Besler has spent the majority of his seven-year career under the radar, but as a holding midfielder, he’s at his best and doing his job when no one notices him.
The length of a seven-year career in professional soccer by itself is an impressive feat, but it is not draw-dropping goals or unbelievable dribbling that has told the story of his extensive career. Rather, it is the nature of a hard-working man, comfortable and confident in the mantle he currently possesses.
After a four-year career with the Fighting Irish at the University of Notre Dame where he lifted the 2013 NCAA College Cup, the midfielder was selected fifth overall by the Portland Timbers in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft. However, he would go on to spend the entirety of his two years in Oregon with Portland Timbers 2 in the USL Championship, which is how he got the attention of the Real Salt Lake organization.
“Nick was someone we had always considered highly-rated,” RSL General Manager Elliot Fall said. “After seeing him compete and do well in the Portland organization we felt he had potential and could help lead our Real Monarchs.”
Which is exactly what he did.
After two lackluster seasons finding their way in the USL, the Monarchs strung together nine straight wins in 2017, a USL-record, all under the leadership of Besler as team captain. That team would go on to clinch the 2017 USL Regular Season title, the organization’s first trophy since RSL earned the 2013 MLS Western Conference Title.
From there it was easy to see why the front office staff felt he was ready to make the jump to the first team, signing a new contract with Real Salt Lake on August 24, 2017.
“When I first signed with the Monarchs the goal was always to get promoted,” Besler said. “I knew at the time I’d likely be a practice player, but I felt confident that I could help when called upon.”
And while he hasn’t always been a practice player, in his four years as a member of RSL he has had to grow comfortable in the unknown of when his time would come.
This season the midfielder has strung together six starts for RSL in its first seven matches and into his fifth season he has appeared in 51 matches - 31 of those starts - playing an integral role for the team as both a midfielder and a center back.
“He is an incredibly valuable player at the MLS level,” Fall said. “To succeed as a team in this league you have to have the Nick Besler-type of guy. He’s not flashy, but he understands the job that needs to be done and does it well every single day.”
Now at 28 years old, Besler is one of the older players on the roster, and yet his role is still somewhat similar. It simply comes down to being ready when called upon.
This season the time came earlier than anticipated when fellow midfielder Everton Luiz came down with an injury and Besler was tasked with filling his role. In his six starts, he is third on the team with 10 interceptions and tied for second with five blocks. On the offensive end, he has added an assist, showing an ability to play on both sides of the ball while maintaining order in the midfield.
“You can’t control when you start, you just have to be ready,” Besler said. “Mentally I believe that when I start, I am more than capable of filling whatever role is asked of me and providing great value.”
Real Salt Lake takes on Seattle Sounders FC on Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. MT from Lumen Field in Seattle before returning home to face the Houston Dynamo at 8 p.m. MT on Saturday.