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Real Salt Lake: World Cup for Kyle Beckerman ends but media frenzy on him begins

For the first time at the 2014 World Cup Kyle Beckerman didn’t play a minute on Tuesday, July 1. After logging nearly 300 minutes in three group stage games against Ghana, Portugal and Germany the Real Salt Lake midfielder didn’t feature in the US soccer team round of 16 match Tuesday afternoon versus Belgium.

Real Salt Lake and U.S. soccer team midfielder Kyle Beckerman.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The move by US soccer team coach Jurgen Klinsmann to leave Beckerman on the bench against Belgium caused backlash across the country, as national media members and fans wrote story after story slamming Klinsmann’s decision to bench Beckerman--who had played every single minute of this 2014 World Cup leading up to the game.

Was the decision to bench Beckerman a good one? Not according to most reporters covering the shock replacement--as midfielder Geoff Cameron took Beckerman’s place in the starting 11.

With headlines like, “Why is Kyle Beckerman not in starting lineup for U.S.?” and other more blatant obsessive-compulsive journalism, such as the headline in one Bleacher Report-like article proclaiming Americans love for all things Beckerman, you could clearly sense that the arrow was pointed in favor of Beckerman taking the field--not Geoff Cameron.

What, pray tell, did Cameron do to deserve such scrutiny? He's only a man wearing the red, white and blue, right? Yes he is and he played well in Brazil, but this World Cup only underlines a new yet fantastic problem for the US soccer team--one that fans around the world are already familiar with.

This World Cup was undoubtedly a victory for Major League Soccer, the organization in which Beckerman plays his ball. The US soccer team had five MLS players take the field against Belgium--and six were starting most of the group stage matches when you include Beckerman.

US Soccer fans packed stadiums in Brazil, and American city parks and even stadiums like Chicago's Soldier Field were filled with enthusiasts in red, white and blue USA scarves--watching as if their own lives depended on the outcome. It was strange to some like Ann Coulter and beautiful to even casual soccer fans.

In other words, Americans were understanding what the World Cup finally meant--and they were taking the journey to get there to heart and the results were a part of that journey. For years, American soccer players had to go abroad to carve out a career to even consider themselves worthy of being a world-class talent. Major League Soccer is beginning to change that perception.

The amount of hard work that Clint Mathis, Kasey Keller, Alexi Lalas and countless other Americans had to do in Germany, Italy and England can now be done by American soccer players in Salt Lake City, Kansas City and Seattle.

Soccer in the United States has finally arrived. Even Cameron, who once played in MLS for the Houston Dynamo and is now plying his trade overseas, is not the chosen one--according to fans, the preferred American player is Beckerman.

But the win was more than just a win for Beckerman and MLS. It was a win for Madison Avenue--which isn’t far from New York City FC, now home to Beckerman’s former coach at RSL, Jason Kreis. (Editor's note: RSL should probably start planning to do everything it can do now to prevent a Beckerman-Kreis reunion.) And though American soccer still has a ways to go before it can really play and beat teams like Germany and Belgium, the road to winning a title has been paved by the fans who not only understand the game--they're living, breathing and dying by it, a common practice in other countries.

A New York Post headline blared, “Don’t be fooled by the dreads: Beckerman’s fire fueling US.” Lest you think religion didn’t play a role in this World Cup of Beckerman proportion, you didn’t read The Jewish Daily’s piece on Beckerman, entitled “What’s Kyle Beckerman hiding in his hair?” According to writer Dan Friedman, Beckerman has hidden in his dreadlocks the following essentials: Landon Donovan, a lost tribe of Pygmy Jews, an oxygen tank, the black box from Flight MH370 and Mini-Me--the inimitable actor Verne Troyer, to which he can attach the little man for “goal-saving headers“.

That people across the country would even care to bother talking about Beckerman in such a manner is not only a surprise--it’s kind of a neat thing for RSL fans and soccer fans in general, despite their disgust at Klinsmann benching the dreadlocked wonder against Belgium. In fact, out of 35 articles this writer surveyed before writing this article, only one--one--gave the nod to Geoff Cameron starting over Beckerman.

Reporter Ryan Rosenblatt of SB Nation said leaving Beckerman out of the starting 11 was a “surprising choice, but a sensible one” in his article, adding that Beckerman had played three games already in this World Cup--and needed to rest.

“If Klinsmann wanted to add some fresher legs into the midfield, he had to sit one of the three and there was no way he could sit Jones or Bradley. That makes Beckerman the default pick to sit,” Rosenblatt said in his article.

Klinsmann himself echoed Rosenblatt’s article--written during the game--after the game had concluded in Salvador, Brazil and after the Americans and Beckerman went home 2-1 losers to Belgium after 120 minutes of play.

“With Cam coming in at this point, we hoped that he would take on (Marouane) Fellaini and that’s exactly what he did. I think he had a very, very good game. It’s a little bit of a different style,“ Klinsmann said at his post-game press conference. “I think we had to push it higher up and then find Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey up higher. It worked out well. It was the right thing to do, but at the end when you have the opportunities at that level you’ve got to put them in.”

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