[USA SPOTLIGHT] American fans might not remember the last time they saw DaMarcus Beasley, perhaps because they didn’t see much of him.
A 10-minute stint as a late substitute for Jonathan Bornstein at the 2010 World Cup against Algeria marked his 93rd cap and he’s not played for the USA since. (A rather dramatic conclusion to that match may have contributed to his relative anonymity.) The past two years, in fact, have been pretty barren: just seven of 24 U.S. games in 2009, and only four of 14 in 2010.
The reason is simple: scant playing time. A move to Glasgow Rangers from PSV Eindhoven in 2007 started well enough and then ran aground. A loan to German club Hannover and a reunion with U.S. teammate Steve Cherundolo didn’t go so well, either. He had faded far enough from the scene that his bio isn’t included in the 2011 U.S. Soccer men’s national team media guide.
So if his switch to Mexican club Puebla last summer, after a short flirtation with Pachuca, came as a surprise, the reasoning does not.
“It wasn’t about anything else but going to a team, to a place, to a country, whatever, that wanted me there,” he says. “The coach, the president, the vice president all wanted me and I felt welcomed. They were giving me a chance to play and it was up to me to take it with both hands.”
In 11 games, he’s scored two goals, including one early in the season with a sharp header he can’t help but chuckle about. (He got his second last week in a 2-1 loss to San Luis.) At 5-foot-8, he’d just as soon the ball be on the ground, which he says is the norm in Mexico, unlike his stints in Holland, England, Germany, Scotland and MLS, where he started his career as a teenager with Chicago in 1999.
“It’s a different game,” he says. “All the players are very skillful, from the goalkeeper to the centerbacks, they have all the tricks as well when we play five-v-two. It’s not kick-and-run, everything’s on the ground.
“It’s more physical than I thought but at the same time all the players are very skillful. It’s an open league, a fun league to play in, and I’ve been having a ball so far with the team and everything. I’ve always wanted to play in a Latin-style league so I was happy when Mexico came calling.”
The Mexico friendly in August,Jurgen Klinsmann’s first game in charge of the national team, marked his unofficial return; he came in for training but didn’t play. That first contact, plus a few days in camp this week preparing for friendlies against Honduras (Saturday) and Ecuador (Tuesday) has provided Beasley ample reinforcement of his views when Klinsmann was one of the top forwards of his era (he retired in 1998).
“The way he played is the how we are,” Beasley says. “His style fits us to a 'T.' We come back to win games or get a tie, that ‘Americans never die’ attitude. He had the same attitude when he was a player and he’s bringing it to our team: high-pressure, make sure we get them in spots they don’t like, set up the game the way we want to play it. He’s definitely putting his stamp on U.S. Soccer and it’s been great so far.
“When I first came in for the Mexico game, I didn’t play, but right away I could see he still has that same passion, that same drive, he did as a player. The way he scored goals and the way he was on the field, he’s brought that to his coaching.”
Beasley says Klinsmann has kept close contact with Puebla coach Sergio Bueno, who has used Beasley in a variety of positions and roles, depending on opponents, tactics, and game situations. Puebla is in 14th place with 13 points heading into a tough match Saturday at Cruz Azul. (The Mexican League is not taking a break during this FIFA international match week.)
“We either play a 3-5-2, and I play wingback, so I’ve got to defend more basically playing left back at times,” says Beasley, whose raids up the left flank have netted him 17 U.S. goals and countless prostrate defenders. “But other times, we play a 4-3-3 and I’m playing as a striker. It all depends on who we’re playing and our game.
“I can play in midfield or up top. I don’t play left back unless it’s the last 10 minutes of the game or something, I don’t start out at left back. [Bueno] sees me as a player who can go up and down the left flank and play all those positions.”
As for Klinsmann, Beasley just hopes the coach sees him on the field somewhere. There’s a dearth of left-sidedness in the current U.S. pool, a much different look than when players like Jeff Agoos, Eddie Lewis, Bobby Convey and Beasley dotted the roster. These opportunities from Klinsmann and Bueno he doesn’t regard as guarantees of anything.
“I’m not taking anything for granted because for the last two years I haven’t played a lot of soccer,” he says, mindful that at age 29 he’s much closer to the end of his career than the beginning. “It’s only been 11 games that I’ve played regularly but I’m enjoying it. I’m going to run with it so I don’t have another two-year stint like I did the last couple of years.”