Kyle Beckerman. The name invokes pride in people who follow Real Salt Lake, through its ups and downs, highs and lows and all the other clichés that sportswriters often use to mask the truth.
The truth is, that behind the red, green and yellow flags, the “Iron Lion Zion” persona which is kind of humorous considering we’re in Utah, and the dreadlocks and perceived Rastafarian lifestyle that Beckerman is living, he is indeed favored by new U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann, as the Americans try to define this new era of stylish, attacking soccer.
It’s as if Klinsmann has opened the door to a free-thinking, hair-flying, Reggae-style of ball with the hippie music jamming loudly and good times to be had by all.
Pass it on, mon.
It’s obvious, at least in the early stages, that Beckerman is part of a strategic U.S. plan to finally get its foot not only in the proverbial door of world soccer, but keep a pesky toe lodged firmly between the door jamb and opening.
Beckerman could be the catalyst in this new way of thinking. Prior to Klinsmann’s arrival, former coach Bob Bradley couldn’t have cared less about Beckerman’s play.
Except for a few callups to meaningless national team friendlies and one meaningful but short-lived stint at the CONCACAF Gold Cup two years ago that showed how little Bradley actually knew about the future of American soccer, Beckerman has always been the odd man out.
He’s been a white Bob Marley in a sea of clean-cut collegians who sometimes play for obscure European club teams, or happen to have dual citizenship, play for second-tier Euro sides and sport a few tattoos.
The sad part is, Beckerman is a byproduct of the woebegone former national teams system; a child of what U.S. Soccer thought would be its calling card in the 1990’s and 2000’s.
How ironic that a guy with 40 appearances as a U.S. Under-17 national team member–along with Freddy Adu, another former golden child–would be called up at a time when U.S. soccer is at its breaking point.
Adu will sit out this go-round, as Klinsi has chosen to bring in other players, but it’s obvious Freddy, once thought to be extinct, will be part of Jurgen’s plans.
And the thing is, Klinsmann’s new philosophy of including these former U.S. youth national team prodigies seems to be working. Not only did Beckerman play against Mexico, he went all 90-plus minutes in a 1-1 draw that seemed to signal a change, albeit small in stature, of the way the U.S. approached the game.
U.S. NATIONAL TEAM ROSTER FOR GAMES ON SEPT. 3/SEPT. 6
GOALKEEPERS (2): Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Tim Howard (Everton)
DEFENDERS (9): Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers), Edgar Castillo (Club America), Timmy Chandler (FC Nürnberg), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Zach Loyd (FC Dallas), Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis), Heath Pearce (Chivas USA), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado Rapids), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Jose Torres (Pachuca)
FORWARDS (4): Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy)
Beckerman played with style, he set up numerous American attacks, especially in the second half when the U.S. stopped sitting back and actually went forward, and most importantly, he held the ball up when things weren’t going right in the first half.
In sum, he did just enough to avoid being embarrassed in the same way the U.S. midfield and defense had in the 2011 Gold Cup final.
He displayed deft touch, imagination and the characteristics that make him one of Real Salt Lake’s top players and a Major League Soccer All-Star selection.
Soccer is all about ebbs and flows, and nobody knows that better than Kyle. Under Jason Kreis at Real Salt Lake, Beckerman has had the brunt of responsibility placed on his wiry frame.
He’s required to possess a certain amount of flair, but also demonstrate a fair amount of control when defending in Kreis’ diamond midfield, while setting up RSL’s attacks.
And what is known by all who follow the U.S. national team, is that the Americans need somebody who understands how to possess the ball for long stretches, and is capable of orchestrating attacks when the need arises.
That’s Beckerman’s game in a nutshell. He is just as comfortable playing as a holding midfielder in RSL’s Barcelona-like midfield as he is going forward when the U.S. is pushing numbers up.
Even that was apparent when Beckerman played in limited action for Bob Bradley.
So where does Beckerman go from here? The first sign that he is getting preferential treatment from the new American way of thinking came when Kreis asked Klinsmann if RSL might keep Kyle for a crucial game with MLS playoff implications this weekend against Philadelphia, the same day the U.S. is scheduled to play Costa Rica, and Jurgen said yes. Instead Beckerman will join the Americans for a friendly Tuesday Sept. 6, at Belgium.
“I feel very honored anytime I get a chance to represent my country. It’s great to have another opportunity to build upon what I was able to do at the last camp and in the game against Mexico,” said Beckerman. “I also appreciate Coach Klinsmann and U.S. Soccer for being flexible and allowing me to stick around with RSL for what will be a very important game against Philadelphia.”
Kyle’s next international test comes when he and 23 other players, most of whom will be coming in from their European clubs, take the pitch next week.
It will be Beckerman’s big challenge to see if he, the child of the youth national teams system, has what it takes to compete with Bob Bradley’s kids, the supposed chosen ones with the dual citizenship and Euro pedigree, and the lads who never took the Americans deep into World Cup play.
Of course, finding out whether Beckerman has the right stuff may take some time, so if he doesn’t play a full 90 in Belgium it definitely won’t be time for RSL fans to hit the panic button.
In time, RSL fans will have their answer. And from the sounds of things, it may be what RSL fans, and American fans, have been seeking for quite some time.