Beasley resurrected under Klinsmann
SAO PAULO -- Besides maybe DaMarcus Beasley himself, few would have predicted when the most recent World Cup ended four years ago that the 32-year-old U.S. national team veteran would even be on the American roster for this World Cup, let alone playing every minute for the Yanks in Brazil. "I always knew I would give myself another chance," Beasley told ESPN's Jeremy Schaap in an interview this week. "Especially with the coaching change, I knew I would get one more chance to show what I could bring to this team."
Beasley made just one substitute appearance in South Africa under former U.S. coach Bob Bradley, and after being a starter as a 20-year-old in 2002 and again in 2006, he let it be known he wasn't happy about the diminished role.
Bradley, who gave Beasley his first pro start back in 2000 when both were with the Chicago Fire, never called him in again.
Even after Jurgen Klinsmann took the Yanks' reigns in 2011, Beasley seemed like a long shot to stick around; in 2012, he played in just one U.S. match, his lowest yearly total with the squad.
Getting an opportunity is one thing. Taking advantage of it is another. Sometimes, though, it's more about timing than anything else.
The reason Beasley played so sparingly at the latest World Cup could have had something to do with his resistance to playing a new position. Bradley had tried the career midfielder at left-back during a qualifying match for that tournament, and it did not go well. (Jonathan Bornstein ended up manning the role at the main event.)
But early last year, the U.S. went into two crucial qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico severely shorthanded. German-American full-backs Timmy Chandler and Fabian Johnson were both hurt, so Klinsmann shoehorned Beasley -- who might not have been called in had others been healthy -- into the back line for both games, and he helped the team secure two clean sheets.
The spot has been his ever since.
"For me, being on the field is great," Beasley said Saturday, two days after helping the U.S. reach the second round for the second consecutive Cup. "I've taken on a new position, and it's a different mindset, but I still play the same. It's a new position I like."
U.S. vs. Belgium: Tuesday, 4 ET (ESPN and WatchESPN)
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Part of the reason he embraced it this time around surely had to do with the realization that his window at the international level was closing. But the stylistic differences between Klinsmann and his predecessor didn't hurt.
While Bradley's full-backs tended to mostly stay home and defend, Klinsmann prefers his to get forward and help join in the attack. That makes for a nice balance for the left-footed Beasley, who was always a dogged, responsible defender in the midfield.
"It lets me get up and down when I have the chance to," Beasley said. "I've always been taught to be able to play both ways, offensively or defensively, and back in the day I always wanted to score goals and make the last assist."
Beasley's attacking instincts have been on display at times in Brazil. He was one of the bright spots of a U.S. attack that was mostly neutralized in Thursday's 1-0 loss to Germany. His defending has mostly been solid too, and he's improved from game to game.
The stiffest test is still to come, though. Belgium, the team the Americans will meet Tuesday in their round of 16 tilt (4 p.m. EST on ESPN and WatchESPN) in the northeastern city of Salvador, is particularly dangerous on the wings. Midfielders Eden Hazard and Kevin Mirallas are capable of carving up any defender, not to mention a converted one.
"They're a good team, and they attack with numbers," Beasley said. "Their outside backs get forward a lot as well. We definitely have our hands full."
Still, Beasley won't be fazed. The four-time World Cup vet has seen it all in a 15-year career that has taken him to clubs in six countries. He's still the only American to play in a Champions League semifinal (with PSV Eindhoven in 2005), and his 119 U.S. caps lead the current squad.
As a guy whose national career was supposed to be over, he's playing with house money these days. His legacy is now secure, whatever happens from here.
"What he's done for the club teams he's been on, what he has done for the national team -- his consistency, his longevity -- and he continues to show how important he is for us," midfielder Michael Bradley said Saturday. "Without a doubt, DaMarcus is one of the best players in U.S. Soccer history."
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.