He may not be the best defensive midfielder in this draft class (that would be Fatai Alashe) and he is not even the best player in his family (that would be big brother Matt Besler) but he should still be a good pickup for some team in the middle of the first round.
Nick Belser is set to head to the MLS draft after four very good seasons playing for Notre Dame. He was a key part of their team that won a National Championship in 2013 earning a place in the NCAA All-Tournament Team for his efforts. Besler was also named All-ACC First Team his final two seasons. He leaves the Fighting Irish having made 72 appearances for the school including 59 starts having been a regular starter in the midfield for three years.
Besler was never the sort of player to get involved in the offence for his team as he picked up just 2 goals and 5 assists in his four seasons at the school. He did do a lot to help Notre Dame's offence though as his presence in front of the back four allowed the rest of the midfield to push forward and support the attackers. Besler was the anchor of the team and a big part of why they have had such a strong defensive record in recent years.
In 2014, the Fighting Irish did not have their best season but they still only gave up 18 goals in 21 games. On their way to the National title in 2013 they gave up the same total of 18 goals but that year it was over the course of 24 games. Back one year further and the team gave up 20 goals in 22 games. So over the three years that Besler was a starter his squad gave up an average of 0.84 goals per game which is an impressive mark for a team that consistently dealt with a hard schedule.
What you get with Besler is a player who knows what his role is and knows how to do it well. He is not going to win you any games or be your engine in the midfield but he is going to improve your defence, consistently win the ball back, and occupy a lot of space in the middle of the park. Having a player like Besler allows a team to play with more of a back five and gives the rest of the midfield the freedom to be a bit more adventurous knowing he is back there to cover for them.
Having Besler as the anchor of the midfield is what allowed Notre Dame to be so successful in their National Championship season. His presence really allowed Patrick Hodan to push forward and be the support that Harrison Shipp needed in the attack and that was more than enough fire power to get the job done considering Notre Dame's strong defensive record.
The younger Besler has also shown that he is a natural leader on the field. He has the vision to help organize the team ahead of him and it was no surprise that he was named captain for his senior season. He has all the tools to be developed in to the sort of midfield general that can help organize your team from the field. There is a good reason that he played every single minute this season for the Irish.
Besler is not going to be a force in the midfield with athleticism because he is not really a top end athlete. He has the physical skills to get the job done in his role though so that lack of high end athleticism should not really be a knock against him.
What Besler does have is good touch, control, and vision. He is plenty comfortable working in tight spaces and is quick to find an outlet pass when he recovers the ball for his team. When he gets the ball he is more likely to keep it moving towards the attackers than to try and carry it forward himself which would be a positive in the right system. He is also strong in the air making good use of his 6 foot frame and decent vertical to win balls in the air as well as one the ground.
Any team that takes Besler in the draft is going to get a tidy defensive midfielder. He is not going to be that bruising, disruptive force in the middle of the park like someone along the lines of Osvaldo Alonso but rather could be more like a Kyle Beckerman type player. His style of play actually helped keep him on the field with Notre Dame as he only went to ground when needed and as a result he rarely picked up cautions. Instead, he showed a knack for winning the ball without having to go to the ground and often did his best work by slowing down opponents rather than getting stuck-in.
With Besler being a holding midfielder there are not a lot of highlights out there to really showcase his game. The only way to really get a good picture of what he can do is to watch full games but he did score a game winner in 2014!
It certainly was not the prettiest goal you are ever going to see as it was just Besler finishing off a scramble in the box but considering he rarely scored in four years it is pretty much the best highlight that is out there for Besler. It is safe to say that it would be foolish to expect him to do much goal scoring in MLS.
If Toronto FC are interested in adding Besler on draft day they may need to be careful in their planning. He is not likely to go too high in the draft but come the middle of the first round there are a number of teams that could be interested in his services. Real Salt Lake love defensive midfielders but they do not select until 16th overall so they should not be a concern but Sporting Kansas City do own the 10th and 12th picks. They could be looking to bring another Besler back home and complete their family collection. That means that if TFC are seriously interested they may need to look at Besler with either the 6th or the 9th pick rather than waiting until 11th.
Would Besler make sense for TFC though? The team have been lacking in a real holding midfielder since they traded away Matias Laba and though they have tried a number of players in that role none have really done a good enough job to allow the team to unleash Michael Bradley. Collen Warner was probably the best of the bunch and he will be back for 2015 but after him there is certainly room for improvement. By adding Besler at worst they would bring some needed depth to that position and at best they could find themselves a long term starter in a key position next to Bradley.
The future of TFC at DM may be Chris Mannella who signed a home grown deal earlier this year but he is still probably a year or two away from being in position to be a regular contributor in the first team. Adding someone like Besler would ensure the club does not need to rush Mannella along and he can develop in USL Pro. It is a pick that would make a lot of sense for the club should the Notre Dame senior stay on the board until the middle of the first round.