SAN JOSE, Calif. – Having only established himself as a professional two years ago, Steven Beitashour still comes off as one of the San Jose Earthquakes’ young kids.
When it comes to the international stage, however, the 26-year-old right back knows his time is already beginning to run out. That’s why, when the Iranian national team came calling this time, Beitashour picked up and answered.
“I’m hoping to play at a World Cup, and [next year’s edition] is my best chance, because if I miss this one, I’ll be 31 in another four years,” Beitashour told MLSsoccer.com this week. “I’m just trying to make the most of it.”
Beitashour is the Quakes’ ultimate hometown kid – born in San Jose, a graduate of Leland High and a former ballboy for the franchise’s earlier MLS incarnation. He trained with the US national team last August and was in camp this January, but had to pull out after realizing offseason surgery failed to properly repair his sports hernia. Beitashour remained uncapped through 2013 as the Americans fought their way to the top of the CONCACAF Hexagonal.
“When I got called into the US national team, people thought, ‘Oh, that’s it, you’re settled. You’re playing for the US,’” Beitashour said. “But until you play a [binding] game, it’s not really over.”
That left the door open for Iran, which lays claim to Beitashour through his parents, who were both born there. The Iranians had been in contact with Beitashour since his emergence in 2011, when he notched seven assists in 19 league matches. The fact that Beitashour didn’t respond to their interest for so long left the impression that he was holding out to play for the US, but he claimed in the end it wasn’t a hard choice to make.
“If someone says, ‘Do you want to play for our country?’, I don’t think it’s too tough a decision,” Beitashour said. “It’s a good opportunity. Obviously, I still have to do well with it.”
While it’s common for players to face a choice between heritage and home with regards to a national-team commitment, the history between the US and Iran obviously raises the profile of Beitashour’s case – even if he doesn't want to play a diplomatic role.
“For me, it’s all about soccer,” Beitashour said. “I don’t try to think at all on the political aspect of it. I’m just purely [concentrating] on playing soccer.”
On that front, Beitashour – who flew 17 hours to reach Tehran after the Quakes’ 1-0 victory against Colorado on Wednesday – will presumably get a look Tuesday when Iran faces Thailand in a qualifying match for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.
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“I know, speaking with Omid [Namazi, an assistant to Iran head coach Carlos Queiroz], they just want to take a look at me with the guys,” Beitashour said. “It’s different when you see someone on film all the time. You want to see how he reacts and plays with the guys on the team.”
Assuming that goes well, Beitashour could be back in Iranian colors next year during the World Cup, for which Team Melli have already qualified.
“It’s still far away, but the possibility of it is exciting,” Beitashour said of a potential Brazil trip. “To get these opportunities is very exciting. I just have to make sure that I continue to work hard at practice and in the gym and doing all the things off the field correctly, so that it gives me the best opportunity.”