May 20, 2010
By Michael Lewis
THE BEAS IS BACK
Beasley battles for a spot on U.S. WC team
PRINCETON, N.J. -- While the U.S. National Team puts in the finishing touches for South Africa, coach Bob Bradley has some difficult decisions to make for the World Cup.
|Bob Bradley on Damarcus Beasley (above): . "The feeling of not being caller in had hit him," he said. "Now, we had a different way about him."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Which players does he deploy on the backline, depending on their health, form and fitness? And who does he pair with Jozy Altidore up front because Charlie Davies is not an option?
One possibility would be to move up midfielder Clint Dempsey into that attacking role and use a player from the glut of midfielders (12) in camp.
One potential candidate? DaMarcus Beasley.
Beasley was considered a key player on the National Team before he grossly underachieved at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
He then wound up in Bradley's doghouse losing a U.S. corner kick off his foot and turn into a Brazilian goal at the FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa last year. Beasley was not heard from again in the tournament or qualifying. Injuries and a subsequent lack of form kept him off the team and he was not called into National Team camp.
"We made the decision not to bring him in for the group," Bradley said. "That's a tough thing for a player who has experience and history with the National Team.
"It's got to be earned, got to be earned on a regular basis. You have to have the right mentality to play well. It's not just a given."
Now, Beasley has one last chance to state his case for another trip to South Africa.
Bradley has noticed a different Beasley in camp. "The feeling of not being caller in had hit him," he said. "Now, we had a different way about him. We hope that continues."
Beasley, who turns 28 Monday (still prime time for soccer players), said he was in better shape -- in body and in mind.
"Obviously. Obviously," he said. "My head's on right. I feel the confidence from my teammates, from the coaching staff. That part is always good. Sometimes players need the confidence from the coaches or from the players to push them. Once I had that, got their backing again, that made me fit in more easy."
It came down to playing. Beasley was in the final year of his contract with Glasgow Rangers.
"I've always been confident in my own ability and how I know I can play," he said. "It just wasn't clicking at the time. I wasn't playing at all at Rangers, pretty much. It was disappointing, frustrating. I just thought I could come onto the field and play like I usually do and that obviously didn't happen. I blame -- I put everything on myself. It's something no one else did. It's all on me."
Beasley has a long list of accomplishments, which includes 90 international appearances and 17 goals. But Bradley doesn't base much on reputation.
He found himself back to the team for the 2-1 loss at the Netherlands March 3, Beasley came off the bench to set up the lone goal, a free kick that led to a header by U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra in the waning minutes.
“I think that something has clicked in his head and he's figuring out now what it takes to be an elite player," teammate Landon Donovan said earlier this week. "We're seeing it again.”
Beasley wasn't certain it was just that.
"Since the 2006 World Cup ended, I wanted to play in Africa," he said, "getting down and playing and getting back to my best form. It has never been out of my head that I do not want to play for my National Team again. That's nothing that really clicked. It was something that I just needed to put my head down, word hard and get back to my best."
Once a left-sided player, Beasley has become much more comfortable on the right flank. He got accustomed to playing that the new side during his days at PSV Eindhoven.
"When I was playing well in December, I was playing on the right side," he said. "I feel comfortable there. I like the right side. I can cut to my left and go down the line."
In fact, Beasley sounds like he will play anywhere to make the team. "To be honest, anywhere in the attacking formation I'll play and the left back sometimes when he needs me," he said.
This time Beasley isn't assured of an automatic spot as he was for the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.
"It's a little bit different," he said "I haven't been in this situation before but I welcome it. I enjoy the competition with some of the young guys, getting into tackles. That part is fun for me. I don't have anything to prove to anybody. Hopefully I can make the squad and give Bob more problems when he makes the 23-man roster."