WASHINGTON - For more than a decade, RFK Stadium has played host to the most recognizable faces in U.S. soccer. The tradition continues today as former D.C. United greats like John Harkes, Marco Etcheverry and Bruce Arena are routinely spotted on matchdays, whether in the luxury suites or subterranean locker rooms of the venerable old facility.
But recently RFK welcomed a former MLS star who most would expect to find on Chicago's Lake Shore Drive, not East Capitol Street. U.S. national team standout DaMarcus Beasley dropped in on D.C.'s last two matches, starting with United's come-from-behind 4-3 win against his former Fire team on June 15.
"It was fun," said the PSV Eindhoven winger of watching his old side play. "It was my first game since I've been back from Europe. It's the first time I've seen them in action. I'm unhappy with the result, but at the same time it was still a good game - up and down, exciting. That's what the fans want to see."
Beasley also caught United's 2-0 win against Eastern Conference leaders New England, and the former wunderkind noted the influence of the league's youth movement, led by up-and-comers like Clint Dempsey and Josh Gros.
"MLS is a fun league to watch," said Beasley. "You could see today, there are a lot of good young players trying to prove themselves. For young kids trying to make their way in America, I think MLS is definitely a stepping stone to give them a start."
United fans might hold bad memories of watching Beasley run rampant against their team during his days with the rival Fire, but nowadays his ties to the Black-and-Red are just as numerous as those to his old team, whose former captain Peter Nowak is now D.C.'s head coach.
"Actually, my girlfriend lives in D.C., and she works for D.C. (United)," he said. "But I know everybody - I know Benny (Olsen), I know Esky (Alecko Eskandarian), I played with Dema (Kovalenko), Clyde Simms, Nick Rimando. So whenever I come here, they give me love, and I come out and train if I have to. I feel very welcome in D.C.."
Beasley has made a splash in his first year at PSV, who won the Dutch Eredivisie and surprised many with a run to UEFA Champions League semifinals, paced by four goals from their U.S. left winger. But Beasley wants more and has set his sights on being a regular starter.
"I'd give myself a B-minus," he said of his first year in Holland. "I played a lot, I scored a lot of goals, but at the same time, for me to get an A, I want to be in the team everyday. I was in the team, out of the team, back and forth."
Beasley is now preparing for the national team's busy summer schedule, with CONCACAF Gold Cup action and important World Cup qualifiers that could assure the USA of a spot in Germany 2006.
"We've got the Gold Cup to give some of the young players experience," he said, "and we have Trinidad coming up in August. If we can win that game, I think we're pretty much qualified."
With his rapid success overseas, Beasley has become one of the international standard-bearers for U.S. soccer, but his ambitions are far from satisfied. He's already contemplating the next level, possibly moving to a glamour club like his PSV predecessor Arjen Robben, now starring at English champions Chelsea FC.
"I want to get to a bigger team in Europe," said the Ft. Wayne, Ind., native. "I want to go from PSV to England or Spain. I always challenge myself - MLS is a great league but I wanted to challenge myself to get better so I can prove myself at a higher stage."
Charles Boehm is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.