CHICAGO – He may own a home in Miami, and make his living in the fourth largest city in Mexico. But this week, DaMarcus Beasley has returned to his roots.
On Sunday against Panama at Soldier Field (4 pm ET, Fox, UniMas, Univision Deportes, live chat on MLSsoccer.com), Beasley will take his place at left back just a few hours down the road from where he grew up in Fort Wayne, Ind., roughly 160 miles around the fingertip of Lake Michigan and east into the middle of the Hoosier State.
He’ll take the field as captain, too, the leader of a United States national team with six straight wins under its belt when Beasley wears the armband, and one shy of a Gold Cup title.
“It’s truly an honor [to captain the national team],” Beasley said Friday. “It’s one of the biggest things in my career that I’ve done. … It would be a good ending to the story if we can win on Sunday.”
In the stands, his parents, brother, aunts and uncles and nephews and nieces – pretty much any relative physically able to make the journey – will stand behind him in what may well be one of the crowning moments of an already illustrious career.
They know better than most that, like all the best stories, this one might not have happened without a little luck, a little faith and the willingness to take an unfamiliar plunge a few times over.
He wasn’t supposed to be here. Not after seeing his European career stall, and not after playing 132 minutes total for the US over a two-year span in 2011 and 2012.
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“It was difficult. It was difficult to swallow,” Beasley said. “I always had confidence in my own ability and how I play football and what I can do to contribute to a team that I’m playing for. I just needed that, and I got that in Mexico.”
After cutting ties in Europe, Beasley found the fresh slate that could set his career back on an upward trajectory in Puebla, just outside Mexico City. And with every start and every goal for La Franja, his name slowly began to work its way back into the national team picture.
Then fortune truly intervened this spring, when the US needed a left back. Age had caught up with Carlos Bocanegra, injuries hobbled Fabian Johnson and Edgar Castillo proved able to handle only a bit part.
Beasley had only played there twice before for the US – against Trinidad & Tobago and Costa Rica during Bob Bradley’s tenure, neither perfect performances – but it was certainly worth a try.
The US have gone 11-1-1 since, and now there’s no prying Beasley out of his new digs, even if he’s still cramming on the job.
“It was tough in the beginning,” he said “I’m not going to lie, it was tough to play something that I haven’t really played before and to play at such a high level. This is international level, playing against the Belgiums and Germanys. That’s a different thing.”
It’s not outside Beasley’s capabilities, though, as he’s proved throughout a banner 2013 for the USMNT.
But the job is not yet done in the Hexagonal, so there are no banners yet. And besides, Beasley has a triumph of a different sort on his mind.
Win on Sunday, and he’ll have the honor of hoisting a gaudy gold cup into the Chicago sky, his family going mental somewhere in the sea of stands while his teammates do the same behind him.
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“We have a chance to win something. That’s what I said in the beginning to this group,” Beasley said. “I told the group, 'Forget about World Cup spots. Forget about qualifying. This is our group. We have a group to try and win the Gold Cup. At the end of this, we have a chance to do something special, and that’s to hold up the gold trophy at the end of this thing.’
"That’s what I told everybody, and I know everybody has the same mindset that I do.”