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Beasley's faith helps achieve World Cup goal

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Fort Wayne product will play on fourth U.S. team

Saturday, June 14, 2014 - 3:39 am

Since DaMarcus Beasley started playing soccer, even against older players, he loved to use his speed, strength and creativity to attack. As one of the Americans' most-consistent scoring threats for 10 years, he was always pushing defenders back as they tried anticipating where his dancing sprint might charge next.

But then the United States needed somebody to stop those threats. After a particularly tough loss in March 2013, men's national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann called Beasley to ask what he thought about switching from midfield to left back. It was a risky, gutsy move for Klinsmann, and an even bigger gamble for Beasley.

"I still had lots to accomplish with the national team, and I didn't feel like my time was over yet,'' Beasley said. "I said of course. We're professionals, and we want to be on the field at any time.''

Except it wasn't that simple or easy. Imagine Joey Votto changing from first base to shortstop or Andrew Luck moving to safety from quarterback. Think how hard it would be to think the game in a completely different way, and oh, trying to do it against the World Cup competition level. Imagine changing a lifetime of habits.

That's a lot to ask of a 32-year-old because nobody hates change more than elite athletes who are slaves to their routines. Also, this wasn't a ``just give it a shot'' thing as much as an unspoken ``make this work or you're probably off the team.''

"He told me he would play whatever role we asked, and he has proven his point over the last several months with some tremendous performances,'' Klinsmann told "He's a great guy to have around the locker room. He always has a smile on his face and brings a lot of positive energy.''

At least publicly -- and he says personally -- Beasley never blinked, never doubted, never questioned. He didn't have time to as learning the new position needed to be done quickly. He also had to set the example for the rest of his younger teammates who were wondering if he could do it.

It was almost a decision to prove he was just as good as his confidence showed. Second-guessing would take too much time.

The goal, as Beasley said, was now to stop strikers from doing to him what he'd been trying to do to others for so long. Maybe the biggest advantage he had was he knew how he would attack midfielders, but now he had to take away scoring opportunities instead of creating them. Despite not being the biggest or strongest midfielder, he might be the quickest with the best ability to recover.

"He's so versatile that even though he's been playing as a wide midfielder or a wide forward he possesses the most important essential,'' said Fort Wayne United coach and long-time friend Bobby Pousanidis. "He has an incredible ability to think quickly and apply that to his decision-making skills. I used to think he could excel at this position because he is so quick and so hard to get around, but he can also get the ball up the field. It adds an extra weapon that a team may need.''

It's an odd combination of confidence and humbleness that allows Beasley to make this switch in a World Cup year. He's confident enough in his ability to know he has the physical and thinking skills to make it work, and the humbleness to accept the change quickly as being best for the team. He's got to believe in himself and the move, which may not be the same things.

This had to come down to faith, and not necessarily just faith in himself. Beasley had to believe this was God's intended role for him. He and God had been through a lot with soccer, from moving around the world trying to find spots to play, a team to fit in on or even reacting to racist attacks. There had to be inner strength because often there was no one else there with him.

"I told him every time there was a door closing, but God opened another door and it's always bigger than the door that's closing in your face,'' Beasley's father Henry said. "This is a faith thing as well, and as long as he keeps believing and doing what he's supposed to he's going to be fine.''

OK, it's one thing for Mom or Dad to talk about God and faith and what if and how come. After all, they are supposed to set that standard and have more life experience to use as examples, but sometimes living through those moments isn't nearly as clear. It's sometimes hard to see God's plan when you are the one He's manipulating.

``It really was a big part of this,'' DaMarcus said. "Even if I thought things were not going the way they were supposed to go, I have always had faith that God would open that next door for me to walk through. A lot of what I do is based on the grounding I have with faith.''

And maybe that's the real reason Beasley is still around to play in his fourth World Cup. He's gone from being the next future star, then trying to fulfill potential and now becoming a team leader and a key example. Maybe he needed to go through everything else to get to the point that might become the height of his career.

Maybe instead of taking chances with the ball all the time he had to learn to take a chance on himself and trust his coach's decision. Maybe it is all about faith, just in a different way than we normally expect from athletes.

"My dad's line has always been in my head ever since I started playing,'' Beasley said. "Whenever I've had bad times or a bad game, he always kept me positive with that. Now, I still have confidence I can still play at this level. God never gives you more than you can handle.''