DaMarcus Beasley looking to set US History at 2014 World Cup

damarcus-beasley-2014-world-cup-1DaMarcus Beasley is a name that many US soccer fans are very familiar with. As a 20-year-old, he helped propel Team USA into the Quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup – their best finish since 1930.

Since that time, though, Beasley’s World Cup career hasn’t gone quite so smoothly. He was part of the disappointing 2006 US squad that quickly flamed out in Germany, and he followed that up with just 10 minutes of playing time at the 2010 World Cup.

After his limited South African campaign, there was little reason to believe that Beasley would have any chance at making the 2014 World Cup roster. For starters, he was entering his 30s, a time where many past heroes are cut to make way for the younger crop. Another thing that Beasley had going against him was a lengthy history of injuries. 2009 was especially tumultuous for him as the injured American failed to gain much playing time with both Team USA and the Rangers of the Scottish Premier League.

Nevertheless, US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann asked him to play left back in a 2013 World Cup qualifying game against Costa Rica. Trying a new position in blizzard conditions wasn’t exactly an ideal situation. But Beasley rose to the challenge and helped the Americans grab a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica.

damarcus-beasley-2014-world-cup“I’ve played a lot of different positions in the national team, from forward to left mid, right mid. Center mid, in the back,” he recalled when asked about the match. “The left back came from the snow game against Costa Rica. He (Klinsmann) asked me if I could play it. Timmy Chandler was out. Fabian Johnson was out. Parky (Michael Parkhurst) was out. Every left back you could ever imagine was out. That was my first call-up for a while. He asked me if I could play it, so I said, ‘Yeah.’ That was it. He had confidence in me since that day to play that position and here I am now.”

Following that contest, Beasley started at left back during a 0-0 tie against Mexico at Azteca Stadium. From there he served as the US team’s captain during their Gold Cup title run. Having made 17 caps since early 2013 and shown some incredible leadership skills, it didn’t come as a complete shock when Beasley was named to the 23-man final roster for Team USA.

Now, Beasley is gunning for history because he has an opportunity to become the first American to play in four World Cups. What’s more is that he’d be one of just two dozen players around the world to compete in four Cups. Of course, the first step will be making it onto the pitch during one of America’s three group-play matches against Ghana, Germany and Portugal. Just taking Beasley’s experience into account, he has a good opportunity to play in all of these games and possibly even start.

“You take the game in a different light. Now that I’m 31, I wish I would have known what I know now when I was 20,” Beasley said. “It would have made things a lot easier. But, at the same time, that’s what you do when you’re 20-20, you just want to run around and play and you don’t care what happens. Now, you look at the game in a different way. I’m still enjoying the game. For me, just being confident in your ability as well. If you’re confident in yourself, no one can teach that. Klinsmann can’t teach that, the Bruce Arenas, the Bob Bradleys, no one can teach that confidence that you instill in yourself.”

When/if Beasley does get on the field, he’ll have his work cut out. That’s because the US is stuck in the 2014 World Cup’s “Group of Death.” Germany and Portugal are ranked second and third, respectively, in the FIFA rankings while Ghana has had a good deal of World Cup success lately.

damarcus-beasley-2014-world-cup-2Nevertheless, Beasley knows that American fans have come to expect great results from Team USA. In fact, the 2002 Cup team that he was on serves as a measuring stick for what future squads do. “Now you have $6 to $8 million players on the team, so expectations have changed,” he said. “You have a lot of players at big clubs. It’s different from when I first came on the scene.

“It’s tough to say if we’re better than we were back then, because I think the 2002 team was a great team. It’s tough to compare. But the fans, the media and we expect more. We expect to get out of this group and we want to better that 2002 team and get past the quarterfinals.”

It’s certainly nice that Beasley and the US aren’t lacking in confidence. And they have every reason to believe that they’ve got a chance of making it out of their group, given that the US is ranked 14th in the world. However, they’ll definitely have a tough road to the knockout round, and Beasley and other defenders need to be on their best to slow down Germany and Portugal’s attacks.

Why was Landon Donovan left off the US World Cup Roster?

landon-donovan-off-world-cupThis week saw the shocking omission of Landon Donovan from the 23-man, US World Cup roster. Many considered Donovan to be a lock for the national team’s trip to Brazil. After all, he’s one of the few Americans with World Cup experience and he still has something left in the tank.

But for weeks, US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann insisted that Donovan was not guaranteed to make the final cut. And while some saw this as merely coach speak meant to inspire everybody to work hard, it’s clear now that the German wasn’t bluffing.

Klinsmann could’ve waited until the June 2nd FIFA deadline to make the final cuts. However, he chose to cut the final seven players now, rather than wait. Donovan was joined by Clarence Goodson, Brad Evans, Terrence Boyd, Joe Corona, Maurice Edu and Michael Parkhurst. Klinsmann spoke about his decision to trim the roster as soon as possible by saying:

It is an exciting moment when you have narrowed the roster down as a coaching staff. These 23 players you have chosen can now focus purely on Brazil. We can go into more specific things about technical approaches and about the opponents. For the players, it is very important to know that they are now part of it and they can relax and know they are going to Brazil. After 10 days [in camp], we thought the point had come to make that decision.

Okay, so this explains why he got rid of the final seven players already. However, there’s still the issue of why he decided to include Donovan among them.

landon-donovan-off-world-cup-1Some fans are outraged by the Los Angeles Galaxy forward being given a pink slip. One only has to look at the stats to realize the impact that he’s made, scoring 57 goals in 156 international appearances and delivering 58 assists – both clear-and-away American records. Beyond the stats, Donovan has provided some electrifying moments for Team USA, such as when his energy and speed helped push the US into the Quarterfinals in 2002. Just four years ago, he provided a last-minute goal against Algeria in group play, which was the boost that America needed to reach the knockout round.

Given everything we’ve just discussed, it’s no surprise that many have questioned Klinsmann’s decision. Bruce Arena, who coached the 2002 and 2006 US World Cup teams, and currently coaches Donovan on the Galaxy, said, “If there are 23 better players than Landon, then we have a chance to win the World Cup.” Sports Illustrated writer Grant Wahl expressed his opinion by writing, “Cutting Landon Donovan will prove to be a mistake.”

Many fans have chimed in, questioning the selection of youngsters like Julian Green (18), DeAndre Yedlin (20) and John Brooks (21). USA fanatics also questioned Brad Davis’ inclusion, noting that he’s 32 – the same age as Donovan – yet his 14 caps are nowhere near Landon’s 156 international appearances.

So what reasoning did Klinsmann offer to quiet the natives? Well, he didn’t really provide much of a reason at all behind leaving Donovan off the team. What he did say was that other players were “a tiny little bit ahead of him.” Klinsmann also made vague references to Donovan no longer having the exceptional speed or unparalleled one-on-one skills that he once possessed.

landon-donovan-off-world-cup-2More so than his diminished skills – which are still good enough to be one of America’s top 23 players – what kept Donovan off the US roster was his motivation in recent years. In 2012, he publicly questioned whether or not he wanted to be on the Cup team in Brazil. Then Donovan took a sabbatical overseas, which included a lengthy stop in Cambodia where he found himself and regained the motivation to play soccer.

Unfortunately, he also missed two months of the Major League Soccer season and some time with Team USA during this sabbatical. Klinsmann dropped him from the international squad for a while and made Donovan earn his spot back. Once this happened, it seemed like Landon was rejuvenated and focused on Brazil.

But earlier this year, there were already more rumors about whether or not Donovan was 100% into soccer. Furthermore, his conditioning and drive were publicly called into question by Klinsmann in an attempt to get the forward back on track. In the end, though, it seems as if the coach came to the conclusion that Donovan’s heart just wasn’t as into the game anymore. This, coupled with Landon’s aging skills and physical attributes, were enough to leave him off the World Cup roster.