Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
As U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann continues to tinker with his central midfield set-up in the 2013 Gold Cup, there has been one constant.
Kyle Beckerman, now with 28 international caps, has started both of the USMNT matches so far in the Gold Cup, holding down the defensive midfield role while Stuart Holden, Joe Corona, Jose Torres, and Mix Diskerud have been competing for a permanent place.
Heading into the USMNT’s biggest challenge in Group C against Costa Rica on Tuesday night, Beckerman appears to have a target on his back. While his work on the field might go unnoticed by the average fan, the Costa Rica setup has made clear that shutting down Beckerman on the field is a key part of their plan.
“Undoubtedly, Beckerman is someone we have to be watchful of and have to try mark him, blanket him and neutralize him in the game,”Costa Rica head coach Jorge Luis Pinto said on Monday. “We know it won’t be easy, but at the same time they will also need to be wary of us and know that we have players who can play and make things happen with the ball.”
The Real Salt Lake midfielder, known as much for his long dreadlocks as his skill on the field, isn’t new to this competition. Beckerman parlayed a strong season in Major League Soccer to make the Gold Cup squad in 2009, leading the team to the final.
After being left off the 2011 Gold Cup squad by former head coach Bob Bradley, Beckerman has seen a resurgence in the national team under Klinsmann’s reign, and the German manager is particularly fond of the 31-year-old Maryland native. Since Klinsmann took over the National Team in July 2011, Beckerman has featured 16 times, and even when not playing has been part of the squad for numerous World Cup qualifying dates.
“The thinking on Kyle is that he’s a pure team player,” Klinsmann said. “He cleans up so many balls, he’s playing simple, he keeps things moving, and he’s always there for his back line.”
“With the central midfielders, he’s in that race for who’s playing the next game if we rotate a little bit here or there,” Klinsmann said.
In the USMNT’s last match against Cuba, Beckerman had one of his best performances in the red, white, and blue, uniform, controlling the team’s possession and delivering a great assist to Chris Wondolowski for the forward’s first goal of the match.
All of this isn’t surprising to Beckerman’s RSL and USMNT teammate, goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
“He’s always been a player that can play at this level, and I see that every day,” Rimando told SBI ahead of training on Monday. “To be at this environment and play in a meaningful tournament and playing at the highest level with the national team, I think it’s shown for sure.
“He’s got an assist, he’s doing the stuff on the defensive side that he always does, and I think it’s definitely shining at this tournament.”