GUADALAJARA, Mexico — When Spaniard Luis García cheekily chipped in a penalty last Saturday evening to secure Puebla FC's first three points of the season, it was their No. 11, DaMarcus Beasley, who was first to run over and give him the ritual embrace.
After the game, a beaming Beasley hugged and congratulated his teammates one by one. Early signs suggest Beasley’s Mexican adventure is going just fine.
The reaction to the former Chicago Fire man’s debut was positive in the Mexican media and the 29-year-old looks set to be a regular starter for Puebla after a frustrating last season with Hannover 96 in Germany.
Beasley certainly made a good impression Saturday on local Puebla freelance sports journalist Alberto Ramírez.
“What we saw against Atlas is that DaMarcus is a player that gives everything, is up and down the pitch and doesn’t seem to tire,” Ramírez told MLSsoccer.com by phone.
“He played an important role in the attack,” added Puebla-based Sportimes writer Fernando Cruz. “We’re hoping for big things from DaMarcus Beasley for the rest of the season.”
The buzz surrounding Beasley and Puebla needs to be put in some perspective. Part of the joy on the faces of the Puebla players and staff following the Atlas game was due to the fact that the team did not win a single game on the road all last season. La Franja slumped to just five victories in 17 games in the Clausura 2011.
“The fans are happy that Puebla has been strengthened and that DaMarcus has come to Puebla,” explained Ramírez. “He’s a player that needs no introduction. Although he plays for a rival national team, we can forget that while he is giving his all in the Puebla shirt.”
Added Cruz, “Beasley is one of the players that has increased interest among the fans.”
Alongside Beasley, capped 93 times by the United States, Puebla made headlines by signing former Atlético Madrid and Liverpool forward García in the offseason. Combined with the experienced Argentine Gabriel Pereyra, Puebla’s strike force — with Beasley on the left side — has got people talking. Against Atlas, the triumvirate showed early promise, creating plenty of chances in the first half.
However, with the headline-grabbing signings has come a hefty weight of expectation on Puebla, who haven’t won a championship since 1990. Floating dangerously close to the relegation zone, not many in Puebla are concerned about going down.
“We believe there is a squad with known players that are quality and can fight for the championship,” said Ramírez.
This season’s jersey design is the based on the retro Puebla shirt of the club's most successful period in the 1980s. La Franja are obviously daring to dream this Apertura 2011, but there should be a word of caution. Only two of the 11 starters last Saturday were even at the club last season and their opponents, Atlas, were extremely poor. Teething problems should be expected. Still, it's better to have to dampen expectations than to have to try and find means to heighten them.
Beasley, the veteran of three World Cups with the US national team, appears relaxed after an excellent preseason and has told reporters in Puebla that the fans have treated him really well and that he is going to fight very hard for a place.
The Indiana native seems to be integrating himself nicely into his new surroundings, too. This week, he even featured in a promotional video for this weekend's game at home against José Francisco Torres’ Pachuca.
“We are a lot more than 11,” states Beasley, in Spanish, in the commercial.
Theorized Ramírez, “Puebla directors are looking for an identity with these new players that they had with [former iconic head coach] José Luis Sánchez Solis ‘Chelís,’ and then kind of lost over the last couple of seasons.”
Beasley seems to be central to Puebla’s new, ambitious project.
“I think he's going to become an important player here in Puebla,” Cruz said. “It seems like he has got his place in the starting 11 and we’ll just have to see if he can keep performing.”
After a frustrating last season in which he played just four times for Hannover, the fact that a regular starting berth beckons for Beasley is a breath of fresh air.
Tom Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter: @mexicoworldcup