It’s the World Cup, this is the dream come true, and if that’s it let’s play the best. Let’s play Germany, the big-time countries with all this history. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. —Kyle Beckerman
Kyle Beckerman was a soccer junkie from a very young age.
At 8, he got his first taste of international soccer watching the 1990 World Cup on TV, and quickly insisted his parents record as many matches as possible so he could rewatch them over and over. Three years later when the now-defunct U.S. Cup came to town, of course he had to be there.
RFK Stadium was only a 30-minute drive from his hometown of Crofton, Maryland, and there was no way he was missing Brazil vs. Germany in his own backyard. I mean, come on, this was Germany, the same team he’d watched beat Argentina in the 1990 World Cup final just three years earlier — a match that helped deepen his passion for soccer.
Brazil jumped out to a 3-0 lead at RFK Stadium that June afternoon back in 1993, but Germany rallied for a 3-3 draw behind a brace from Jurgen Klinsmann, including his 89th-minute equalizer.
Not in a million years could Beckerman have imagined how RFK Stadium’s hero that day would change his soccer fate two decades later.
Largely overlooked by previous U.S. national team coaches throughout his career, Beckerman’s opportunities with the Yanks increased immediately when Klinsmann was appointed U.S. coach in 2011. They haven’t stopped since.
At 32, an age when most players' international careers are usually over, Beckerman is one of 23 players representing the United States in Brazil this month in the World Cup because of Klinsmann’s belief in him.
“This is something I’ve been working toward for three years,” said Beckerman.
Realistically, it’s a dream he’s been trying to realize for decades. Klinsmann helped revive that fading dream three years ago.
As a kid, Beckerman would doodle drawings for his parents that said, “Kyle Beckerman, USA, No. 15.” In Brazil, he’ll wear No. 15.
Unlike U.S. teammates such as Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley who know their place on the team, Beckerman’s an enigma. He’s been the clear backup to Jermaine Jones and Bradley the past three years, but his role with the team increased in all three World Cup tune-ups.
He didn’t play in the Azerbaijan match, came on as a sub in the Turkey match, and then started the Nigeria match. Is it an upward trend that bodes well for Beckerman starting against Ghana next Monday, or just more lineup experimenting by Klinsmann?
In the Nigeria match, Beckerman received praise for sitting in deep at holding midfield — something he does weekly with Real Salt Lake — which allowed Bradley to float into attacking positions more confidently.
Throughout the past few years, Beckerman has insisted he doesn’t get caught up in talk of who should play, instead focusing on the opportunities when they arise.
“I don’t need somebody to tell me I’m going great. I’m just going to go about my business. As long as you keep bringing me in I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. That’s the main thing,” said Beckerman.
His tenacity, how he reads the game defensively, and his play-simple approach have made him one of the best in MLS.
For a player who came up through the U.S. Under-17 residency program along with Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley and Oguchi Onyewu, he would’ve liked for his international opportunities to have come sooner. But he's glad they finally did.
If there was an unofficial moment that Beckerman booked his plane ticket to Brazil, it was last September in a World Cup-clinching 2-0 victory over Mexico. With Bradley injured, Klinsmann gave the starting nod to Beckerman and he played an intelligent match as the United States officially clinched its spot in Brazil.
Two months ago in an April friendly against Mexico, Beckerman was again in the starting 11, but this time he was paired in the midfield behind Bradley — a lineup pairing that was by all accounts a success. Many have suggested Klinsmann might utilize it in Brazil again.
Beckerman says playing for Klinsmann has been a blast the past few years, and not just because he’s been in his good graces the entire time.
“The guy gets ultimate respect right off the bat. He was the elite of elite. He won a World Cup, he was the star striker, and he was the coach for Germany,” said Beckerman. “Anything he says you respect, and you listen. It’s been a lot of fun. He’s just so positive and he has this kind of personality about him — he’s German but he’s also been in America forever. He’s just a real happy-go-lucky guy.”
That personality has been infectious for players like Beckerman, and it truly has them believing they can be successful in Brazil despite being paired in one of several groups of death along with Germany, Portugal and Ghana.
The always-confident Beckerman says bring it on.
“It’s the World Cup, this is the dream come true, and if that’s it let’s play the best. Let’s play Germany, the big-time countries with all this history. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be tough for sure, but if we can put everything together, if the preparation is perfect, if the games we go about are perfect, get a little bounce here or there and get a little luck, anybody can be beat,” he said.
“They might have all these players that are unbelievable and play on the best teams in the world, but that’s on paper. And we know in soccer you’ve got to come out and play and you’ve got to win the game and you’ve got to win it. There’s a chance in every game for us to go out and win, and that’s what we plan on doing.”
And if by chance the United States advances, Beckerman says watch out. The Yanks would be oozing confidence, making them a dangerous team going forward.