BALTIMORE – Call him “your favorite player's favorite player.”
Kyle Beckerman has made a quiet but crucial contribution to the US national team in the Gold Cup, one that might not be as easily noticed by the casual observer as the slashing runs of Landon Donovan or the power and trickery of Eddie Johnson.
Beckerman himself has added to this under-the-radar status by largely avoiding the media, a decision that sources with knowledge of the situation told MLSsoccer.com stems from what he believes is a misunderstanding of his role and responsibilities.
But if you look closely, there's no doubt about the essential function he's serving at the base of the USMNT midfield – and it's certainly not lost on the growing list of teams vanquished by the Yanks as they continue to roll towards the Gold Cup final.
“In a game like this, everybody needed to sacrifice,” said El Salvador head coach Augustín Castillo after his side's 5-1 loss to the US at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, diverging from a reporter's question to single out the Real Salt Lake veteran's importance in the one-sided result. “I wanted my players to pressure Beckerman in holding midfield for the US, however, that didn't quite work out.”
The only pure holding midfielder called into this tournament by USMNT boss Jurgen Klinsmann, Beckerman has performed the “destroyer” role to perfection thus far.
But he's also playing the part of the metronome who keeps the ball moving and sets his team's rhythm.
“It's fun to play next to Kyle,” said Mix Diskerud, his central mid partner against El Salvador. “He wins so many balls and is a really good team player. It's just fun to stand next to him, watch him do his thing and then suddenly you have the ball and you can make a play.”
Klinsmann typically has a glut of holding and box-to-box types to choose from, with European stars like Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Danny Williams and Sacha Kljestan often pushing Beckerman down the USMNT depth chart.
More than a decade of sustained excellence in MLS play and cerebral contributions to the national team have earned him the respect of his peers, however, and keep him in the forefront of Klinsmann's thinking.
“Kyle is the Peyton Manning of soccer, for me, as far as an experienced player [who's] very good at what he does,” said Eddie Johnson. “He keeps us connected as far as keeping the ball, keeping us organized and that winning mentality that he's had. He's been a consistent player throughout his career and I'm very fortunate to play alongside him.
“And I'm very happy to see where he is, considering that's a difficult position on this team, given the players that play over in Europe. But for him to be able to stay true to himself, believe in himself and keep making it harder for the coach to make a decision in that spot, I'm delighted for him.”