33016_isi_beckermankyle_usmntjd032916182 John Dorton/isiphotos.com
U.S. Men’s National Team

Beckerman on Win: "Let's See if We Can Break Them"

The dreadlocked Real Salt Lake midfielder did usual thing Tuesday night in Columbus, providing a sold defensive foundation in the center of the pitch and playing clean-up for his teammates. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
March 30, 2016
9:00 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio—Perhaps the most underrated aspect of Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure as coach of the U.S. men’s national team has been his use of Kyle Beckerman.

The unflashy Beckerman, 33, never found a consistent spot under Bob Bradley but under Klinsmann has been a tactically disciplined defensive midfielder who serves as the offense-defense glue. The Maryland native was there for Klinsmann in his first game against Mexico in 2011, played a valuable role at the 2014 World Cup, and came up big for the team again Tuesday night against Guatemala in a must-win World Cup qualifier.

“I thought the pressure—it comes, but nobody really thought too much about it,” Beckerman said after the game. “It was just about going and, ‘Let's execute, let's keep the pressure on and see if we can break them.’ 

“We needed a big reaction, and everybody had that same mindset of a big reaction: Be aggressive, high intensity, get the ball moving fast. I think that aggression led to everything else good that happened for us.”

The Real Salt Lake captain’s insertion came after a game Friday in Guatemala City in which the United States came apart in the first 20 minutes and looked disjointed the rest of the way in a 2-0 loss. On Tuesday, the team’s 4-4-2 became a 4-3-3, and Beckerman entered the mix. He was tasked with sitting deep and shielding a defensive line that featured two attack-oriented fullbacks in Edgar Castillo and DeAndre Yedlin as well as a central defender making his first non-friendly appearance in Steve Birnbaum.

The result was never in doubt, as the U.S. took Guatemala out of the game early, conceding very little possession until it was comfortably ahead by multiple goals. Beckerman played a key part. He forced turnovers and quickly made smart passes that shifted the ball back into the attack; his positioning allowed both fullbacks to move up the flanks without putting the team at risk of a counterattack.

As far as tactics were concerned, he knew what he had to do and he did it.

“It's about our choices once we get the ball,” Beckerman said of his defensive assignment. “If we can find those guys [Castillo and Yedlin], they're getting acres of space, so it really puts the pressure on them that they're starting to chase us. I thought those guys did an excellent job once they got in there. So we weren't getting too much caught out. With those guys getting forward, it's good for our offense.

"And our best defense is when we got the ball.”

Coming into Tuesday’s game, Klinsmann was facing a wave of scrutiny over Friday’s loss, which had come on the heels of a generally poor 2015. But as much as those results have been chalked up to a failure to integrate new and younger faces into this U.S. side, the major theme of the bounce-back performance here was trusting in his more experienced players to secure the needed result.

Alongside Beckerman, after all, were goal-scorers Clint Dempsey, 33, and Geoff Cameron, 30. What is perhaps most interesting is that while many of the more experienced American players have young players pushing them for their desired spots, no one has yet come close to displacing Beckerman.

“Every team needs leadership from its veteran players,” Klinsmann said Tuesday. “Kyle Beckerman, with the way he kind of cleaned everything thing up on the field, it was tremendous.”

It’s not as if Klinsmann hasn’t tried to give other players looks in Beckerman’s deep-lying role, though. Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones have both had their chances, and both ultimately have reverted back to their free-ranging duties. Reading’s Danny Williams, meanwhile, has been inconsistent with his opportunities; Alejandro Bedoya and Mix Diskerud have proven better used elsewhere; and players like Perry Kitchen and Dax McCarty have never quite gotten off the edge of the player pool.

Cameron, too, tried at the World Cup, but Klinsmann has preferred him in the backline. Tony Tchani even featured there in the most recent January before ultimately electing to play for Cameroon.

Beckerman’s game has never been predicated upon age, which is good news for him and the U.S. alike. Heading into the spotlight of the Copa America, he remains an important part of a team that usually plays its best soccer when he is playing his.

“We'll build off this,” Beckerman said Tuesday, still an essential—if still underrated—building block.

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