DaMarcus Beasley is retiring from the United States. His 14-year international career is over, and he exits as an American soccer legend.
That Beasley is respected, beloved and will be so badly missed is a bit of a surprise. After all, this is the same player who went from youth team superstar, 2002 World Cup star at the age of 20 and Champions League semifinalist to club jumping, injuries, reports of a bad attitude and outright anger from fans whenever he was called into the senior team. He is the same player who watched a slow pass on a corner kick go under his foot at the 2009 Confederations Cup, gifting Brazil a goal.
But in the last three years under Jurgen Klinsmann, Beasley transformed himself into an integral part of the U.S. again. His revival coincided with a move to Puebla in Liga MX, where he finally began to play regularly and play well, but the most surprising part wasn't that he turned around his career, it's how and where he did it.
He did it by being a leader and left back.
Nobody would have guessed that. That wasn't his M.O. at any point in his career. He was the kid jokester and fast winger and now he's the grizzled leader and defender? But even as he did that, he still maintained his sense of humor and the attitude that led him to bleach his hair blonde, run at Portugal as a 20-year-old in the World Cup like it was nothing and since and dance his way on and off the field.
In 2011, Klinsmann had been the U.S. manager for all two months when the team got ready to play a friendly against Ecuador in New York. Beasley was in the team and I was standing on the pitch for training.
The team did a few stretches and drills. All of it was pretty basic, and then Klinsmann called the team to the center circle. They huddled up and Klinsmann talked for a few minutes, then they broke up. Beasley came jogging over towards the sideline I was standing on with the rest of the left wingers and backs.
Once Beasley got to the sideline, he looked up and stated to no one in particular, "I have no idea what the fuck he just said."
The rest of the players cracked up. The people who overheard him cracked up. It was hysterical, except to Beasley, who meant it and quickly made sure that all of the young players would do the drills before him so he could figure out what he was supposed to do.
The drills started and Klinsmann resumed shouting about what everyone was doing well and poorly. It was the norm for the practice, but in this drill, it was all bad. Nobody was doing it right and nobody had any idea what they were supposed to be doing.
Then it was Beasley's turn, and he did it perfectly. He made the right cuts, passes and buried his shot, leaving him to jog back to get in line again. There was a smile on his face and then from the center of the field you could hear Klinsmann yell, "See! DaMarcus listened!"
I'll miss DaMarcus. I'll miss DaMarcus the winger and DaMarcus the left back. I'll miss DaMarcus with bleach blonde hair and DaMarcus with a beard. I'll miss DaMarcus the kid and DaMarcus the leader.
But I'll really miss DaMarcus I Have No idea What The Fuck He Just Said" Beasley.