Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
CLEVELAND — DaMarcus Beasley stands on the precipice of accomplishing a feat only 12 male athletes in United States soccer history have ever achieved. Earning his 100th cap.
On Wednesday, fewer than 200 miles from where he grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Beasley has the opportunity to take the field at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, in a friendly match against Belgium, and cement his name in the history books.
“Even after the first World Cup (in 2002), I never thought I would get to 100,” Beasley said on Monday afternoon. “It’s a great honor, a privilege, to represent your country that many times at this level.”
Beasley vividly recalled the events of that day in Oakland, California a dozen years ago, when he made his first appearance for the USMNT.
“We played China,” remembered Beasley of the 2001 friendly. “I remember I played 90 minutes, I thought I did okay. I held myself pretty well, in front of a big crowd against China, and we won the game, so that’s a plus as well.”
Beasley also brought to mind a moment after he received his first call up, receiving some words of wisdom from veteran goalkeeper Zach Thornton, who was a teammate of Beasley’s at the time with the Chicago Fire.
“I’ll never forget, when I left the Fire to go into camp with the National Team, I remember Zach Thornton, the last thing he said to me was ‘Don’t mess up,'” Beasley said. “That was the only thing he said. It was kind of funny but it always stuck in my head ever since my first game.”
Through the years, Beasley’s club career spanned from Major League Soccer to the Dutch Eredevisie, English Premier League, and Scottish Premier League. After featuring just four times for Hannover in the Bundesliga, the 30-year-old moved back across the ocean to take a chance at Liga MX side Puebla.
“I’m not going to lie, it was a little bit different to go from Germany to Mexico, where I never thought I would end up playing, just because of the rivalry,” Beasley said about moving to Puebla, where he has quickly become a fan favorite. “Playing there, living, the experience I have had so far the last two years, it’s been great, on and off the field.
“Puebla has given me a great opportunity to play and to basically bring me back to life,” Beasley said. “I owe a lot of credit to Puebla for giving me the opportunity to play.”
Digging deep into his memory bank, Beasley extracted two moments that stood out to him, both from a magical year in 2002 that included a Gold Cup title and an outstanding run in the World Cup that summer.
“The 2002 World Cup, starting my first game against Portugal, and winning, that’s definitely a highlight,” reminisced the 17-time international goal scorer. “Also scoring my first goal in the Gold Cup against Korea. Those two will stick will me forever.”
When asked if he had moments during the last few years doubting that he would eclipse the century mark in appearances, the former U.S. youth starlet said that he did at times, but always believed he could make it back into the national team squad.
“I think I had doubts that I would get to 100 (caps), but I never doubted that I would be back with the national team,” Beasley adamantly said. “I’ve always had confidence in my ability. Even when I wasn’t playing in Germany, I still had confidence that, give me one situation, get me back to playing regularly, 90 minutes game in and game out, and I’ll get my chance.
“Luckily I’ve gotten a couple of more games than I hoped for.”
With 16 of his friends and family planning to attend on Wednesday, Beasley knows that it will be a special moment not just for him, but also for everyone who has helped him at each step of his 13 year career as a professional.
“I’m honored to play for this team, for this country, to go out and wear this crest across my chest every time we go out and hear the national anthem,” Beasley said. “Hopefully, it’s not over yet.”