SOUTH BEND – Nick Besler suffered through the longest five weeks of his soccer life last season.
The Notre Dame midfielder broke his right foot in the Irish’s 1-1 double-overtime finish against Maryland on Oct. 8. He was able to finish the match, even though he suffered the injury with about 30 minutes left in regulation, but he wouldn’t return until the postseason.
The five weeks definitely seemed like they took forever, Besler said. I was talking with my dad, and he said something like wow, those five weeks went by quick. I was like, I don’t know about you, but those were terrible five weeks. It took forever. It was hard not being able to practice and play with my teammates.
Besler was able to return for the ACC tournament semifinals, where the Irish lost to Maryland in a shootout.
But most importantly, the junior was able to get healthy and play for Notre Dame as the team won its first NCAA men’s soccer title, which set up a second straight champion-vs.-champion match in Fort Wayne when the Irish face 2012 champion Indiana at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Fort Wayne Sport Club as part of the Shindigz National Soccer Festival.
It was definitely special, Besler said. It’s probably something every single college player wishes they had, and all of us feel fortunate that we finally earned it.
For me to be a part of it, coming back from my foot injury, I felt even more lucky. Suffering that injury halfway through the season, I didn’t know if I would be back or if my season would be over. Fortunately, I came back, and I think I made an impact in the NCAA tournament and eventually the NCAA championship game.
Besler’s contributions rarely show up on the scorecard for Notre Dame.
The youngest brother of former Irish great Matt Besler, who was a first-team All-American as a senior and plays for the MLS’s Sporting Kansas City, is a defensive midfielder.
Besler has played in 51 games, making 38 starts. He had one goal and two assists as a sophomore and one assist last season.
He is tasked with setting up in front of the defense and locking down the opposing team’s lead attacker.
He has a great feeling for the game, possibly a better feeling for the game than Matt had at his age, Notre Dame coach Bobby Clark said. Nick has had the advantage of having a very good older brother, who has obviously shared his experience. I think coming in Nick has had such a good feel for the game. When he plays simply, I don’t think there is a better defensive midfielder, and he is getting better. He’ll still improve.
And thanks to helping Notre Dame win an NCAA title he has an edge when it comes to bragging rights with his brother, even though Matt has won an MLS Cup and could earn a spot on the U.S. World Cup team.
It is something he never had, so it is something I will always say I have and he never had, Nick Besler said. Maybe one day, I will get my MLS Cup and officially take over bragging rights. But it is all friendly fun. We are both extremely happy for each other’s accomplishments and are very happy for each other.