When DaMarcus Beasley steps on the Estadio Azteca field for the United States in Tuesday night's World Cup qualifier against Mexico, he'll have mixed emotions. He'll not only feel the sense of pride that comes with starting for his country but also a sense of gratitude for the country that revived his career.
Beasley, who plays for Mexican side Puebla, has finally found a style of football that suits his talents, and the move to Liga MX has brought back the fervor the 30-year-old had when he first joined the U.S. national team as a teenager in 2001.
"I love Mexico," said Beasley, who turns 31 in May. "It got me back on my feet. It got me back to where I am now. Hopefully, I can stay the next couple years in Mexico, but I feel very confident and I feel really comfortable in Mexico."
And now, coach Jurgen Klinsmann is giving him a chance to regain his spot on the national team as it continues its quest for the 2014 World Cup. Friday's snowtastic game against Costa Rica was Beasley's first start with the U.S. in three years, and Tuesday's game against rival Mexico will give him his 99th cap.
He is expected to be in the starting XI again at left back, a position that has been injury-plagued and illness-riddled for the Americans and was in dire need of some veteran leadership.
"I can count on one hand how many times I've played left back," Beasley said.
Two of those times have been against Mexico, including the much-celebrated 1-0 win in a friendly at Azteca last August.
The national team call-ups have been few and far between for Beasley thanks to a sputtering European career that was cut short because of injuries. He was once the darling of the U.S. side when he burst onto the scene with Landon Donovan in the 2002 World Cup, helping the Americans reach the quarterfinals by beating Mexico in the round of 16.
But in the 11 years since, Beasley's phone hasn't been ringing as much and his quest for 100 caps – the pinnacle of any player's career – has been in jeopardy. However, Beasley said he never lost confidence that he could be an asset for the U.S. The infrequent role has made him more agreeable to playing any position when called up.
"I always thought I'd be back," Beasley said. "I'm confident in my ability, confident that if I play well in Puebla, Jurgen will give me a shot. Obviously, I'm not going to be in every camp, but if I keep playing well and I keep my head down and train like I've been doing, I'll get chances like this and that's what I'm looking forward to in the future.
"Obviously, I hope I get called up more often, but if I don't, all I can do is keep playing well for Puebla and go from there."
Beasley knows despite how well he's played at left back – he was Man of the Match against Costa Rica last Friday – he's just a stopgap. Fabian Johnson, who usually holds that spot, was left off the roster because of illness and Beasley is fairly certain that once Johnson returns to form, his stint in the U.S. defense will be over.
But he doesn't want his time with the team to disappear with it.
He knows his versatility and willingness to do anything – including play a position he's not all that familiar with – should go a long way with Klinsmann as the team continues World Cup qualifying and ultimately sets its roster for Brazil. And it helps that he has the incentive of that 100th cap looming.
"Obviously, it's in the back of my mind," Beasley said of reaching the century mark. "It doesn't come every day someone gets 100 caps. It's in the back of my mind, but at the same time I know I'm not going to get called in every camp. I know that. But when I do, I'm going to try my best to help the team win. If that's on the bench or that's starting, it doesn't matter.
"The biggest obstacle now is to get into the World Cup. It doesn't matter if I play 10 games or I play one."
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