LOS ANGELES – As the football world waited for federations to post the much-anticipated preliminary rosters for the 2018 World Cup before the May 15 deadline, LAFC defender Steven Beitashour knew he had more than a decent shot of being called up.
“I’ve talked to them before and it sounded like I will be on that list,” the Iranian-American player smiled and told reporters in the locker room following the club’s 2-2 draw with NYCFC Sunday night. “But obviously you have to wait until its officially announced [before you can say anything].”
Even as few pundits expected Beitashour would get the nod for this World Cup, the club confirmed his preliminary Iran call-up on Monday morning along with Egyptian Omar Gaber, Mexican Carlos Vela and Costa Rica’s Marco Ureña with a call for Belgium’s Laurent Ciman expected to follow.
“I’ve been working my tail off for four years to get called back in,” said Beitashour, who last suited up for Iran during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The California native is the son of immigrant parents who came to the United States in the 1960s from Iran and told reporters during preseason that he has remained in close contact with the Iranian FA throughout his moves from Vancouver to Toronto to Los Angeles.
“I know they were watching the whole time because they’ve been keeping in contact with me,” the defender said of his communication with the FFIRI. “[Iran’s national team said] ‘Keep doing what you’re doing, we’re watching every game, you’re doing really well.’”
Beitashour’s well-known defensive acumen, first at Vancouver and then Toronto, was what originally caught the attention of Iran coach Carlos Queiroz but the player who began his career with his hometown San Jose feels what he provides going forward doesn’t hurt.
“I think that people realize how much I attack if you just look at my assist record,” he said. “You gotta be smart and then when you do go forward, you’ve got to be productive.”
The outside back earned a point for the Black-and-Gold against FC Dallas last week with a first-half strike and has 33 career assists in his nine seasons in MLS and has already notched three in just 10 games this year for LAFC, where he’s started all of the expansion club’s matches.
“I’m very excited and thrilled to be on that 35-man roster but I know there is still a lot of work to be done,” said Beitashour, who is well aware that having his name on the preliminary roster does not guarantee a trip to Russia, to say nothing of game time in the tournament.
Like their teammate in the Iran squad, LAFC other World Cup candidates will look to impress during camp for their chance at what their manager Bob Bradley considers to be peak experience for players.
“When that happens, for guys to get opportunities with their national team, it’s important,” said Bradley, who along with GM John Thorrington have repeatedly expressed their support for LAFC players called into international duty. “It shows that things are going in the right direction and there is no bigger deal for a player than getting a chance to play in a World Cup.”
More than anything, that’s what Beitashour is hoping to experience for himself. The defender was an unused substitute during Iran’s three 2014 World Cup matches in Brazil but remains optimistic his two MLS Cup appearances in 2016 and 2017, along with a strong start to 2018, can do a lot to resolve that.
“They haven’t seen me up close and personal in four years, so I have to show them how I’ve changed and evolved and gotten better,” said Beitashour. “Hopefully you get onto that 23-man roster and then ideally you’re playing and not just there.”