MNT Oct 9, 2013
For a player who made his debut in FIFA World Cup Qualifying in the final match of the 2002 cycle, DaMarcus Beasley knows better than anyone the importance of games that others may see as meaningless.
Back in 2001, the 19-year-old Beasley hadn’t played a single game in the USA’s successful campaign to qualify for the World Cup in Korea/Japan. U.S. head coach Bruce Arena brought a few new players to Port-of-Spain, where the squad played to a 0-0 draw on Nov. 11, 2001, against Trinidad & Tobago.
While the result didn’t matter, it earned Beasley a spot on the 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup squad two months later, where he scored his first international goal and demonstrated he could compete at the international level. Five months after that, he was on the plane to Seoul.
Now 12 years later, Beasley emphasizes that this group of hopefuls has taken a strong approach to these games.
“The mentality is still the same,” said Beasley. “We want to win our group. I think you can see from the players [Jurgen Klinsmann] selected for these two games that we want to finish off on a good note. Right now there are spots for Brazil, and everyone knows that. There's 23 spots that go on the plane next summer. You want to be one of them that's on the plane.”
The team has had a record-setting year that includes a 12-game winning streak and the most wins in a calendar year (14) in team history. For Beasley, closing out the campaign in a strong fashion can set the tone for 2014.
“These type of games, especially going away to Panama, are a good test for us in a different kind of atmosphere. The kind of style they play is a little bit different from ours, so all that's going to help. And then we play in Scotland against a good strong team and a good European opponent. These are games that are going to end our 2013 pretty well and if we can get good results in these last three, four games of the year, that'll set us up going into the big January camp and moving forward into the spring.”
Despite what’s at stake for these players, the team is still managing to maintain the spirit and camaraderie that has been the hallmark of successful U.S. teams, particularly in pressure situations.
“It's a great bunch of guys. We have fun, but at the same time it's always good to get the job done. At the end of the week, there's always a prize and that prize is getting three points or winning a football match. Obviously the beginning of the week is a little bit relaxed and everybody's kind of laughing and very easygoing, but we'll pick up the pace and come Wednesday, Thursday, we’re looking forward to getting to the next three points against Jamaica.”