There's a saying in soccer that goalkeepers age like fine wine, getting better over time. Apparently goalkeepers aren't the only players who get better with age, as is the case with Real Salt Lake's Kyle Beckerman. At 32 years old, the defensive midfielder has finally cemented a place in Jurgen Klinsmann's starting XI and the decision is paying off for the German-born coach.
When the 30-man roster was announced back in May, one of the biggest roster battles was between Maurice Edu and Kyle Beckerman. Edu had been on Bob Bradley's squad back in the 2010 World Cup, but had struggled to remain in the national team picture after failing to get playing time at Stoke City in England. But a move to the Philadelphia Union of MLS, saw his playing time and chances at a World Cup roster spot increase. During the same time, Beckerman had become a favorite of Klinsmann during the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2013, playing five of the team's six games.
With the USMNT already having two box-to-box midfielders in Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley, Klinsmann opted to keep Edu at home in favor of the more defensive-minded Beckerman. The decision to bring Beckerman to Brazil has had a positive effect on the way the US has played. His defensive ability has been key for a team whose back line is not their strongest area and has provided a solid last line of defense in front of the American back four with his hard tackling and positional awareness.
Beckerman's defensive prowess has allowed Jones to become one of the USMNT's most important players. Prior to this World Cup, Jones had been known as a bit of a defensive liability and a wildly undisciplined player. His tendency to pick up yellow cards was a cause for concern going into the tournament. But with Beckerman shouldering a majority of the defensive work load, Jones has been able to roam in the midfield, winning balls and creating offensive opportunities. It is fair to say that Beckerman is a big reason why Jones has put in two consecutive "Man of the Match" worthy performances.
Passing has also been a strong suit of Beckerman's during this World Cup. There were some concerns prior to the tournament about Beckerman's ability to move the ball forward, but he has done well to dissuade those concerns. According to WhoScored, Beckerman has completed 88.6% of his passes, a higher percentage than any other player in the United States midfield. He may not be booting long balls hoping to find Clint Dempsey streaking down the middle, but he makes the right passes to the players like Bradley and Graham Zusi who can move the ball into scoring positions.
Looking forward to Thursday's match, Beckerman will have his hands full with a German team full of stars. The Germans have scored six goals in two games and Beckerman will need to provide significant coverage for an American defense that allowed two weak goals against a battered Portugal side. With the likes of Mesut Özil, Mario Götze and Thomas Müller likely lining up for the Germans, Beckerman has his work cut out for him against one of the favorites to win the World Cup. The career MLS player appears up to the task however and should provide another solid defensive performance for the Yanks.