It’s been a long time coming for Kyle Beckerman. A player I personally watched closely as a youngster, when he was a “Nike Project-40” prospect that had just graduated from the Bradenton Academy and assigned to the Miami Fusion, is closing in on a World Cup spot for the US Men’s National Team.
When Beckerman arrived in Fort Lauderdale in 2000 to play for the Fusion, it was obvious he was a uniquely gifted player. But Beckerman’s unique skill set of controlling tempo and technical ability on the ball was special, but his positioning sense and anticipation of oncoming attacks was not. As a holding midfielder, the United States tended to like destroyer-type players like his former Fusion teammate Pablo Mastroeni or Chris Armas. Opportunities for Beckerman to break into the full national team were limited.
A concern about the player’s ability to play at a higher tempo was also evident, and throughout the Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley years he remained on the periphery of the national team. His performance at the Copa America in 2007 I thought was solid, but the team bombed and his style of play clearly did not mix with the rest of the side.
When Jürgen Klinsmann became the head coach of the United States in the summer of 2011, he immediately included Beckerman in his plans. A player that was often judged as slow and overly deliberative in his touches on the ball was thrown into central midfield.
Advocates of a certain style of play and central midfielder can argue with the continued selection of the Real Salt Lake man. But judging based on his performances, nobody can argue that he has earned a trip to Brazil this summer — a World Cup rookie at the age of 31.
Wednesday night, in the United States 2-2 draw with Mexico, Beckerman controlled the central midfield and his growing awareness of positioning and simple balls allowed Michael Bradley to run rampant in a first-half the US dominated. Klinsmann had set out an experimental midfield diamond that depended entirely on Beckerman’s play to control the tempo of the match. The USA raced out to a 2-0 first half lead before a Mexican revival, stimulated partly by massive substitutions, ended the match in a deadlock.
Kyle Beckerman is on the cusp of making the US World Cup squad. For few American players has the road ever been longer and yet potentially more rewarding. The setbacks have made Beckerman a better player, a potential starter in Brazil.