SAO PAULO – For weeks, reporters have been clamoring to speak to DaMarcus Beasley. For weeks, Beasley’s managed to avoid the media crush.
The story is a good one. Here’s a player making history, playing in a record fourth World Cup for the United States and taking his third crack at the knockout stage. Beasley’s a new father, too, a man who fell out of the national team before reinventing himself as a left back.
Compelling stuff. Just not to Beasley. Not right now.
“I’m not a big fan of individual accomplishments,” he told reporters Saturday in his first public comments since arriving in Brazil, “so I’ll talk about that after I’m done playing.”
There’s plenty more to play for with banged-up Belgium quickly creeping up on the horizon in the Round of 16. Come Tuesday in Salvador, the US will attempt to accomplish what Run DMB and the 2002 group did in Japan/South Korea: engineer a run to the quarterfinals, and maybe even beyond.
On that team, Beasley was an attack-minded jitterbug of a winger, an electric presence with 20-year-old legs who ran all day and, along with Landon Donovan, was too precocious (and perhaps cocky) to let the big stage overwhelm him.
If anything, the occasion, the stakes emboldened Beasley in the first of his now 10 World Cup appearances and 119 caps, fifth-most all-time for the US behind Cobi Jones, Donovan, Jeff Agoos and Marcelo Balboa.
“Playing in World Cups or in the Champions League semifinals,” he said, “that’s where you show you belong in this position.”
And Beasley still belongs, no doubt. It’s just the 32-year-old is no longer the buccaneering attacker he was in his younger days.
Perhaps it’s age, or perhaps it’s the round-about journey through MLS, Europe and Mexico – complete with on-field racial abuse, DUI charges and fiery car bombs – that’s mellowed the Fort Wayne, Ind., native.
“When he was younger, he was probably loud and brash, but he’s calmed down,” said goalkeeper Tim Howard, one of only two players on this roster older than Beasley. “He’s quiet. He’s a dad. Just all the things you’d hope from someone as they mature. He’s been fantastic.”
Of course, the fairy tale Beasley’s currently living wasn’t always something dreamed up by the Brothers Grimm.
“Like any great athlete,” Howard added, “he went through some ups and downs.”
The ups, first with the USMNT and Chicago Fire in MLS, earned Beasley a $2.5-million move to PSV Eindhoven in 2004, where he was the Dutch club’s leading goalscorer as they made run to the 2005 Champions League semifinal.
After nearly three years in Eindhoven, where he was originally billed as the replacement for Arjen Robben, Beasley spent a year on loan with Manchester City before a move to Rangers in 2007. And although things started well enough in Glasgow, more Champions League goals and Cup medals, the downs began in 2008.
Two seasons of off-and-on injuries and decreased playing time in Scotland meant Beasley, although a member of Bob Bradley’s 2010 team in South Africa, barely saw the field in his third World Cup. A post-tournament move to Hannover in the Bundesliga was even more ill-fated.
At the time, another place on the sport’s biggest stage in Brazil seemed like a long shot, a place in the XI even more unlikely. But Beasley, ever the believer in his own abilities, figured why not?
“A key starter? I wouldn’t say that. A starter? Maybe not,” Beasley told ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap. “But I always knew I would give myself another chance wherever I ended up after [the 2010] World Cup.”
That shot came at a modest club in Mexico.
Puebla and Liga MX, it turned out, were exactly what Beasley needed to revive his career and his national team prospects. It just didn’t happen quickly despite becoming an immediate mainstay with La Franja.
Despite the uptick in form, he made just four USMNT appearances in 2011 and 2012, none of them starts. The only one betting on Beasley to make it to Brazil was the man himself.
But without a true left back, Jurgen Klinsmann was forced to tinker. He gave Beasley a run against Costa Rica in the driving snow in Colorado – a must-win game following a brutal showing in Honduras to start the Hex – and he never took him out of the lineup.
By the time 2013 ended, Beasley had 17 starts in 17 games under his belt – the most he’d ever recorded in a single year with the national team – and captained the US to a Gold Cup title as well. So far 2014 has been more of the same, with Beasley making good at a position he may not have always been keen on but certainly thrives in.
“Once he accepted playing fullback, I thought he’d be brilliant,” Howard said. “I’m a big fan of wingers becoming fullbacks. I just think it’s a natural progression. I think at the beginning he wasn’t overjoyed by it, but once he grasped it, he’s been brilliant.”
Good enough to help the US take another step in Salvador? That’s a story with an ending that’s yet to be written, but optimism grows by the day both at home and on the ground in Brazil.
No matter what happens, Beasley’s place in the pantheon of US Soccer is secure. He may not want to talk about it, but his teammates and coaches aren’t shy about giving a player who’ll go down as one of the best this country has ever produced his due.
"DaMarcus is without a doubt, when you look back, one of the best players in U.S. Soccer history,” Michael Bradley said.