[USA MEN] Few of Jurgen Klinsmann's personnel decisions prompt as much debate among fans as the coach's faith in defensive midfielder Kyle Beckerman, for whom tomorrow's Gold Cup final against Panama may prove to be his greatest test in the U.S. jersey.
He starred on the USA's 1999 Under-17 World Cup fourth-place team alongside Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley, but Beckerman turned out to be a later bloomer with the full national team.
He didn’t make his first appearance until 2007, in a January friendly against Denmark. Bob Bradley selected Beckerman for the 2009 Gold Cup, where Beckerman started every game in the runner-up finish.
Beckerman then played sparingly under Bradley’s tenure, but has enjoyed a rebirth for the national team under Klinsmann. Since Klinsmann took over in 2011, Beckerman played 18 times for the USA. In 2013, the 31-year-old has made seven appearances, including four starts at the Gold Cup so far.
Aside from his trademark dreadlocks, Beckerman remained under the radar for much of his MLS career. At the age of 18, he signed with the Miami Fusion where he played 124 minutes his first two MLS seasons. After the Fusion folded, Beckerman signed with the Colorado Rapids in 2002 and by his second season with the club had locked down a starting spot in Colorado’s midfield.
Midway through the 2007 season, the Rapids traded Beckerman to Real Salt Lake where his career took off. He became RSL’s captain in 2008, lifted the 2009 MLS Cup, and this summer’s MLS All-Star Game will be Beckerman’s fifth consecutive appearance.
Klinsmann’s confidence in the wild-haired veteran may be questioned by some American fans, but Beckerman’s Gold Cup performances in the knockout round have been beyond reproach. (He also earned the top grade average among midfielders in Soccer America’s Gold Cup Report Cards.) The game he didn’t see action in, a 1-0 win in the final group game against Costa Rica, was the one in which the U.S. midfield looked the least cohesive. When he returned to the lineup the Americans cruised to 5-1 and 3-1 wins over El Salvador and Honduras in the quarterfinals and semis.
Eddie Johnson called Beckerman “thePeyton Manning of soccer” for his experience and savvy.
“He keeps us connected as far as keeping the ball, keeping us organized and that winning mentality that he's had,” said Johnson. “He's been a consistent player throughout his career and I'm very fortunate to play alongside him.”
A strong performance in Sunday's Gold Cup final should convince those who doubt the value of having Beckerman in the U.S. midfield.