Of all the players currently with the United States at the 2014 World Cup, few are more important to the tactical potency of the team than Kyle Beckerman.
Beckerman has reached this point in part because of his remarkable consistency and his storied discipline, which have earned him the trust of US coach Jurgen Klinsmann but done something a bit more significant, too.
Beckerman has given Jurgen Klinsmann the opportunity to deploy in a Real Salt Lake-style narrow diamond, which has brought out the best in the RSL captain and in players like Jermaine Jones. He's made the United States in the image the diamond we see week-in, week-out.
Will we see it against Portugal? There are rumblings that we might not if we don't have a target forward to play into. There might also be a concern about it lacking natural width. But these are problems worth dealing with if we're to continue with the setup.
The key has been having two box-to-box midfielders that don't have to spend as much time breaking back into deep positions in defense. Players like Jones will look more risk-prone doing that because they're tasked with both going forward and dropping back — which is fine for some players, but it's a hard ask for most.
We necessarily sacrifice width to play in this setup, much as we do at Real Salt Lake. We push players more comfortable centrally into the channels, allowing us to disrupt standard defensive outlays when pushing forward.
We don't yet know what the United States will look like on Sunday against Portugal. But we do know that Kyle Beckerman could be absolutely vital for our World Cup future. If you'd told us four years ago that Beckerman would shape the 2014 squad in innumerable ways, doubt would've filled the air.
But here we are.