While most U.S. Men’s National Team players arrived into New Jersey for World Cup Qualifying camp on Sunday and Monday, unfortunate circumstances led to veteran Houston Dynamo defender DaMarcus Beasley needing to travel early as Hurricane Harvey forced the cancellation of Saturday’s match against Sporting KC before the devastating storm hit Texas’ Gulf coast.
“Luckily I got out before the hurricane started,” Beasley told ussoccer.com following training Monday. “The game against Kansas City got canceled this weekend and I was able to get in before the real rain began. I’ve been in Jersey since Friday.”
Though he was safe and sound in the northeast this weekend, Beasley’s heart was back in the town that welcomed him with open arms following his star turn with the U.S. MNT at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The four-time World Cup veteran and now adopted Texan has taken pride in seeing how people in the area are turning out to help each other in a time of need.
“It’s sad to see that people are in this kind of situation. At the same time, it’s nice to see strangers helping out any way they can. Whoever has boats, they’re in them trying to help and save people. The state is really coming together in terms of getting people out of harm’s way, and hopefully it stops sooner rather than later.”
A year ago, Beasley wouldn’t have been in this conversation. At the beginning of 2015, the left back retired from the international game, only to be recalled for that year’s Gold Cup and CONCACAF Cup. Though he didn’t explicitly go back into retirement, Beasley didn’t appear in any MNT matches during 2016 – the first calendar year in which he hadn’t suited up since making his debut in 2001.
When Bruce Arena returned as National Team coach last November, he recalled the player he had first brought into an MNT camp 16 years earlier. Beasley competed in the January Camp, and just like before he continued to provide a steady, veteran presence for a U.S. side looking to turn fortunes around in its current World Cup Qualifying campaign.
“I told Bruce any time I’m need or he wants to call me in, I’m 100 percent available,” Beasley said about his return this year.
Since January, the 34-year-old has been summoned for each of the team’s three FIFA World Cup Qualifying camps, mostly playing the understudy role to emerging left back Jorge Villafaña. Ready to play when called upon, Arena needed him most in June as the team had to navigate two qualifiers against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico in the span of three days. Uniquely suited for the altitude of Mexico City thanks to his time spent with Liga MX side Puebla, Beasley slotted perfectly into the 3-5-2 formation that day, helping the U.S. earn a valuable road point at Estadio Azteca.
The only MNT player to appear in four World Cups, Beasley’s start that day made him the first U.S. player to earn caps in five different World Cup Qualifying cycles. Earlier in the year, he became the first U.S. field player to have a National Team career span 16 years (2001-2017) – with only goalkeeper Kasey Keller’s 17-year run (1990-2007) currently outdoes the ageless defender.
“I think the work that I put in to keep my body in pretty good shape and to still be able to play at this level, I’m not surprised,” he said of his career longevity. “At the same time, you just keep playing. Everyone wants to play for the National Team – that’s everyone’s ultimate goal, to represent their country. Whether it’s a friendly, a World Cup, World Cup Qualifier, whatever. For me, I just keep my head down and work hard. If Bruce calls me in he does, if he doesn’t that’s okay too. I’m going to make sure I do everything I can to make the decision hard for him not to.”
And while he’s happy to still play a role with the National Team, Beasley was full of praise for Villafaña and the way he’s grasped his breakout role with the side this year.
“This is probably the first time we’ve had a true left back in a long time. We’ve always had guys that converted into left backs, but Jorge has been in this position for a very long time, whether in M.L.S. or in Mexico, and he knows his position very well. He’s a younger player, but he has so much potential. I’m sure everyone is happy with him, as am I because we’re winning. That’s the whole point, to win and qualify for the World Cup. He’s been brilliant with the National Team.”
Battle-tested in World Cup Qualifying, Beasley knows well the road ahead this week will be a challenge, but if the U.S. equals or betters the point-haul from its previous two camps, it will go a long way towards achieving the goal of booking a ticket to Russia in 2018.
“As a group, we want to succeed. We want to fulfill our dreams, and that is to go to another World Cup. We’re going to do everything possible to do that. Obviously the first game is Friday against Costa Rica. They’re a really good team. Whether home or away, they have really good individual players and they play well as a team. The work is cut out for us, but we’re confident with how we’ve been playing as a group even from January. We’re just trying to get better and better as we go, and hopefully come Friday you see a really good team going up against Costa Rica, we get our three points and head down to Honduras.”