When the U.S. Men’s National stepped onto the vaunted Estadio Azteca pitch during June’s World Cup Qualifying clash a little history was made. MNT and Liga MX veteran DaMarcus Beasley was slotted in at left back for the difficult tie, making his first appearance of the USA’s 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying campaign and in turn, becoming the first MNT player to appear in five different qualifying cycles.
That feat was all made possible because of his inclusion in a Final Round qualifier played at Trinidad & Tobago in November 2001. Just a month earlier, the USA had memorably defeated Jamaica 2-1 and had each of the other two results go its way to secure its place at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. That triumph, combined with Trinidad & Tobago’s early elimination allowed Bruce Arena to try a few different looks with his lineup, one of which was handing Beasley, who had been capped just twice before, his qualifying debut at the tender age of 19.
“We had already qualified and obviously the pressure was off, so being a young kid, you go out there and just play,” the 35-year-old remembered about the experience.
Lining up on the left side of midfield alongside Earnie Stewart, John O’Brien and Jovan Kirovski, Beasley was active early on, but would eventually be hampered by an elbow to the head from Soca Warriors’ attacker Nigel Pierre in the 17th minute. Beasley stayed down on the Hasely Crawford pitch for a long period of time before walking off moments later.
“My debut didn’t last too long because I got a concussion in the first half and came off at halftime."
At a time where concussion awareness wasn’t as heightened as the present day, Beasley was cleared to re-enter the game before being replaced by Cobi Jones at the break.
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“I kind of still remember the play,” he said, “but I don’t remember too much of the game.”
Those that didn’t have concussions would have a hard time remembering it as well. Played on a steamy afternoon in Port of Spain, both teams saw multiple shots go high and wide throughout the match, though Beasley’s Chicago Fire teammate and fellow qualifying debutant Zach Thornton did make a nice diving save on Stern John’s hit from distance in the 52nd minute.
Eventually the final whistle blew as the team’s shared a point in the 0-0 draw.
Still hanging around with the National Team 16 years later, Beasley said he looked forward to returning to Trinidad & Tobago, this time with a different setting -- the smaller Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva -- but still with plenty more on the line than his qualifying debut.
“This is what all players want, a chance to qualify for the World Cup, but to be part of the game that actually does it. People take it for granted and say that you should just qualify. People don’t understand how big qualifying for the World Cup is, how much blood, sweat and hard work goes into a qualifier. Hopefully we get a good result on Tuesday and we can celebrate a little bit when we do it. It’ll be a great end to a long qualifying campaign.”