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Ben Smith

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Back on US team, Beasley in new spot

He’s coming to you from Jamaica right now, and there’s your place to open this fortunate tale. DaMarcus Beasley comes to you from Jamaica, and if that’s a good thing, a marvelous thing, it’s only a tiny piece of an even more marvelous whole.

There is this, for instance: At 31, he’s back with his national team again.

At 31, he’s a forward learning how to play left half, and that is an education even if you’re not 31, even if you’re 19 or 20 or 21 and still a young man in a young man’s game. At 31, DaMarcus Beasley has become, well, venerable – and that is something a kid only dreams about when he starts bumping soccer balls around and discovers there is something breathtaking and gorgeous in it.

And so here he is, playing for the United States again after a year’s absence, and, listen, this hardly ever happens when a player gets north of 30. Beasley can say it’s not that unusual, and maybe in his case it’s not. But he’ll also say he was surprised when the new national coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, gave him a jingle.

“Last two years, I’ve been kind of in and out with the national team,” admits Beasley, who takes the field again tonight in Kingston against Jamaica. “I’ve kind of been on the brim trying to get (back).”

Now he’s back, and finding new life in a new place. Primarily a forward all his life, Beasley is on the back line now, where Klinsmann figures his athleticism and veteran savvy will be most useful. And he has, for the most part, thrived there; Klinsmann has started him at left half the last three games, and last week, in a 4-2 loss to Belgium in Cleveland, Beasley became only the 13th player in U.S. history to earn his 100th cap – i.e., play in 100 international games.

Venerable. Oh, yes.

“He’s just so simple in focusing on his job,” Klinsmann told Nicholas Rosano of after the match. “He knows, ‘My role is to keep my side clean there and go forward when there’s an opportunity and to help the guys wherever I can.’ ”

Beasley isn’t sure it’s that clear in his mind yet. He has, he says, played only “four, four or five games” at left half. And even though he’s played some fullback in the Liga Mexico for Puebla, his most recent team, he’s mainly been a forward and still thinks of himself that way.

“It’s a new position with new responsibilities,” says Beasley, who played well enough in his 100th cap to earn Budweiser Man of the Match honors as the best player on the field for the U.S. “It’s defense first, not offense first. That’s sort of different for me.

“I credit myself for learning to do that. Yeah, it is still a lot of learning in practice. It’s going to take time to be 100 percent confident.”

He hopes he has that time. At 31, after all, time is a precious commodity; there are no guarantees he’ll still be on the U.S. team come World Cup time, and even his gig with Puebla seems imperiled. Word out of Guadalajara this week was that Puebla had placed him on the club’s transfer list after negotiations for a new contract fell apart.

For now, though, he has found a niche. And at the top of the sport, that is everything.

“It depends on your form,” he says, when asked how unusual this all is. “It depends on your form, how you’re playing, other elements. What you’re doing in your everyday life in football. I was off it for a year. It was tough to get back, but I always felt confident in my ability that if I got into a situation where I was playing day in and day out, that I would hopefully get back on the national team.”

Puebla opened that door for him. And DaMarcus Beasley stepped on through.

Coming to you from Jamaica, with 100 caps at his back. O, lucky man.

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; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.