SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 10: Kyle Beckerman #5 of Real Salt Lake reacts after his team defeated the Seattle Sounders FC 2-1 at CenturyLink Field on September 10, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
If Kyle Beckerman didn't have massive dreadlocks, it would be easy to forget he was playing in some games. This is not a criticism of his play, not in the slightest. In fact, it's a massive compliment.
Beckerman is the link between the defense and midfield for both Real Salt Lake and the United States. While he occasionally finds himself in the perfect position to take a shot at goal, and the opportunity occasionally presents itself for him to play a long ball to an attacker making a run behind the defense, these intermittent instances of flash and pizzazz are a small part of his game and what he brings to a team.
Games will go by where Beckerman doesn't take a shot or hit a perfect 50-yard through ball. Full games will also go by where he doesn't make any last-ditch tackles, or power anyone off the ball. In those games, it's very easy to say that Beckerman did very little, but that's rarely the case. He makes it possible for RSL to start attacks without booting the ball upfield and bypassing the midfield, and he also makes it possible for them to retain possession without going all the way back to the goalkeeper.
With the current personnel that Jurgen Klinsmann has at his disposal, Beckerman is going to start on Friday night, and he's going to provide those exact same services for the United States.
When the starting XI drops, you're likely to see no less than five people you follow on Twitter elicit the exact same reaction: "Beckerman? How pointless. He doesn't even DO anything." Plenty of folks will ask why the more athletic Maurice Edu was left out, or why the more attack-minded Jose Torres or Danny Williams couldn't have occupied that same role. The answer is that they don't help the United States win the possession battle.
Under Bob Bradley and Bruce Arena, the strengths of the United States have been their fitness, work rate and ability to strike quickly on the counter-attack. An all-out attacking strategy is viable against poor sides, while a counter-attacking strategy is viable against teams that are going to press high up the pitch and commit numbers forward, but Jamaica is neither. They play their own brand of counter-attacking football, and they're fast. They pounce on mistakes and they have excellent finishers up front.
Jamaica's biggest strength is capitalizing on giveaways. Their biggest weakness? Technical quality in midfield. This means that the midfield battle is there to be won for the United States, but they can't afford to simply play their most attacking players or their best athletes. They need to be very cognizant of the counter-attacking threat that Jamaica pose and make sure that keeping possession and avoiding giveaways in midfield is the side's top priority.
This is all independent of the strategy Klinsmann has attempted to slowly implement since taking over as United States boss, which is based on short passing and possession. Between the tactics that Klinsmann wants to employ regardless of opponent and the opponent that he's facing on Friday, starting Beckerman in midfield is a no-brainer.
More likely than not, Beckerman will not assist a goal with a stellar through ball and will not make any jaw-dropping last-ditch tackles on Friday night. But he probably will start, he should go 90 minutes, and no matter how much he plays, he will provide a vital service if he plays. His play might not stick out, but if the United States keeps the ball for two-thirds of a 2-0 win, don't call him pointless.