The U.S. Men's National Team fans are busy discussing the roller coaster-game vs. Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal, partitucarly the last-second conceded goal and what all the scenarios are for the U.S. to go through to the knockout stages of the 2014 World Cup. The odds are still firmly in the U.S.' favor to move on, but how did Real Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman fare?
The player grades are rolling in and Beckerman is again being lauded as a very important piece of the U.S. side with his ability to break up plays and connect passes that allow the Americans to find space and move forward. Between ESPN, The Salt Lake Tribune, and The Bleacher Report, Beckerman is averaging a 6.5 rating which is right about where I would put him as well. He stayed home and was able to calm the U.S. and facilitate possession when the game was on edge.
Beckerman did not look intimidated by the moment or by the likes of one of the biggest names in soccer history facing off against the number 4 ranked team on the planet. Over the course of the first couple games of the World Cup, it looks as though the days when U.S. fans criticized Beckerman for unclear or illogical reasons are gone. What has been the difference? His play has been largely consistent. It comes down to the fact that he is performing well on the biggest stage. He had a couple of par games in World Cup Qualifiers, and excelled in the Gold Cup tournament, but was never a consistent starter when everybody is watching. Now that he has played every minute of the World Cup for the U.S. thus far, fans are converting. Beckerman thrives at the defensive mid role, it is just not the same sort of sexy position that makes him a household name overnight.
What has become clear to me is that just as the U.S. is proving it is becoming a world power in the game of soccer, Beckerman is simultaneously gaining the respect he has long deserved among the national team supporters.