When the United States Men’s National Team takes the field against Ghana on Monday, soccer fans in South Florida will be cheering on their local heroes.
The area has a rich soccer heritage and history. The region, which is a melting pot for ethnicities from throughout the world, has created an environment where the sport thrives in the area. When Major League Soccer brought a franchise to South Florida, in the Fort Lauderdale-based Miami Fusion FC, the organization’s nickname was appropriate to the region the club wanted to represent.
The team did not last long, dogged by ownership issues but in the last two years of its existence gave professional starts to Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando. Both of the players left the Fusion in 2001. When the club was contracted, the players moved on and now both feature for Real Salt Lake.
Beckerman is a cultured midfielder; the type that never fit the US system under previous managers. But under Jürgen Klinsmann, the USMNT has employed a passing style that is complimented by Beckerman’s quality. As for Rimando, he has worked his way into the US goalkeeper pool after several outstanding seasons in Utah. Both players developed and honed their skills with the Fusion, and Beckerman’s playing style was strongly influenced by the way the club set up under coach Ray Hudson.
Around the time the Fusion was being contracted, a young starlet was beginning to light up the soccer fields around Boca Raton. His name was Josmer Altidore, better known as Jozy Altidore, and he was a sensation locally. Coming through the Schultz Academy, among other local development programs, Altidore developed so quickly that he was signed into Major League Soccer at the age of 16. At age 18, he was sold to Villarreal in Spain and has played at the European club level since. Altidore has scored 23 goals for the United States in his international career.
While Altidore was playing on the youth training fields in Boca Raton, Alejandro Bedoya was starring for Weston FC and St Thomas Aquinas High School. A rarity in this day and age, Bedoya played four years of college soccer yet made his way straight to Europe in 2008 after his NCAA experiences. His rise was so quick that within six months of moving to Europe, he was on US Men’s National Team Manager Bob Bradley’s radar. And not long after that, he got his first call-up. He didn’t make the 2010 World Cup squad but has been included in every major tournament squad since.
Against Ghana, DaMarcus Beasley could become the first American field player to see playing time in four different World Cups. It is an incredible testament to not only his talent but his perseverance. On more than one occasion, the Indiana born and bred winger has been frozen out of the US squad for long periods. Beasley’s revival as a force for the United States, after not being capped for over two and a half years, was partly due to his training in South Florida with NASL side Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Beasley spent the Mexican off-season in 2012, 2013 and 2014 training with the Strikers. Beasley lives in Miami and the training sessions have kept him sharp for subsequent US camps.
Editor’s note: If you live near Fort Lauderdale, come cheer on the USA team against Ghana at the World Cup viewing headquarters in South Florida — Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park. There’ll be craft beer, food trucks and Panini World Cup soccer sticker trading. More info about the schedule can be found here.