DaMarcus Beasley comes home

Local World Cup star signs autographs for kids at his soccer school

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Ben Smith

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A previous online version of this column said DaMarcus Beasley was the first American to play in four World Cups. He is the first American man to do so; Kristine Lilly played in five FIFA Women''s World Cups.
Photos by Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
DaMarcus Beasley, left, talks with Bobby Poursanidis as they walk into The Plex on Friday for Beasley to meet with young soccer players at the Beasley National Soccer School.

Beasley's thoughts far from retirement

DaMarcus Beasley signs autographs for participants in the soccer school and for fans at The Plex on Friday.

The kids from his soccer school are waiting somewhere, in their Beasley 7 shirts. A stack of pizzas sits in lobby. Through the double doors, on The Plex pitch, there's a table and microphones and a video screen clicking remotely through images of Beasley 7, his two weeks of history frozen forever in mid-flight.

Behind the table, beyond all of that now, the man himself.

He comes to us this Friday in a red Coca-Cola T-shirt and a baseball cap with the bill cranked around to the rear, fresh from a meeting with the mayor of his hometown. Friday, Tom Henry decreed, was officially DaMarcus Beasley Day in Fort Wayne. Heck of a thing for man who left here when he was 16 and has been everywhere since – Scotland and the Netherlands and Mexico and, yes, most recently, Brazil – but always seems to find his way back.

“I always say, ‘Fort Wayne is my home,' ” Beasley says now.

And DaMarcus Beasley Day?

“Very, very cool,” he says.

It is all cool now, truthfully, if you're Beasley. At 32, he just made history down there in Brazil, becoming the only American man ever to play in four World Cups. And then he played and played and played some more, every minute of every game, his international career revived in its wintertime when the U.S. national coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, moved him to left back.

Opponents began the World Cup by attacking down his side, thinking they could pick on the old man. They finished it by attacking away from him, as Beasley had the most effective performance of a World Cup career that likely has ended now.

Key word, “likely.”

“I joke about it, because I'm 32 and I'd be 36 (in 2018),” Beasley said Friday. “But, … I'm not going to let someone take my position easily. I'm going to give my all and keep pushing until my legs can't go anymore.”

Which means he's not thinking retirement yet, even though he's not returning to Puebla in the Mexican league next season.

“My door is always open,” he says. “I would literally play almost anywhere. I just want to be happy playing football and enjoying the sport and getting as much out of it as I can until the day I decide to retire.”

And all those moments frozen for posterity, flashing on the screen to his right?

He'll think on all that later, although it's hard not to dwell on them at the moment. The win over Ghana. The near-win over Portugal. Playing eventual World Cup champion Germany to the bitter end to escape the Group of Death as an entire nation stopped dead in its tracks to watch …

“We all felt the love from the States and how much everyone was on board,” Beasley says. “It really picked up from 2010 and obviously the other World Cups I played in.”

Which total four now, of course. There was 2002, taking the field at 20 with his pal Landon Donovan, beating Portugal right off the hop. Then there was 2006 and 2010 and finally 2014, the pinnacle, the best of all times.

“The experience in Brazil for me was the best World Cup,” Beasley says. “For a lot of people, it's where football started. The whole country is about football. To be able to play in this World Cup was very special.”

And all the personal history?

“When you grow up as a kid, everybody wants to play in the World Cup,” he replies. “For us, in our sport, that's the highest you can go. So to be able to play in four; … never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be in this place right now.”

And then he's off, after a few more questions. He moves to the center of the pitch. The kids line up, holding mini soccer balls and jerseys and more jerseys for him to sign.

They've waited long enough.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.